Emile Smith-Rowe Tactical Analysis

This year, Arsenal head to Singapore for their pre-season tour where we’ll face Atletico Madrid and Unai Emery’s former side Paris Saint-Germain. As always, pre-season tours brings hope for youngsters. Not every youngster brought on these tours is destined for first-team football for the upcoming season, but its fair to assume those who impress could get closer to their goals. One player I think we can see impress over the entire pre-season and not just in Singapore is Emile Smith Rowe.

Still only 17, Smith Rowe should be known to most Arsenal fans having had great seasons in our academy recently. However, whereas in the age groups we’ve become accustomed to seeing him play out wide, our first glimpse of him under Emery was in central midfield where he was joined by Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

A player with great technical ability in all aspects, his move inside wasn’t the strangest, especially once you saw him play. For me, against Boreham Wood, Smith Rowe proved to be one of the better players (of the first 11) on the day and showed signs that he could possibly make his official first team debut and get minutes in cup competitions this season.

Here are some examples from the game against Boreham Wood which happened on multiple occasions as to why I think he has a great chance to impress Emery even further.

Technique & On The Ball Decision Making

As mentioned above, if there’s one thing Smith Rowe is known for, it’s his amazing technique which sees him very comfortable in tight situations. Having this amount of technical ability so young, in that aspect he should be able to fit in well enough but his decision making backed up his technique very nicely also.

Here, Smith Rowe showcases a great touch to bring the ball down before simultaneously moving it past the Boreham Wood player’s challenge and bursting into the space behind him.
Smith Rowe shows great acceleration to leave the leave the Boreham Wood players in his wake.
Finally here, he shows great patience to force the defender into two minds about whether to close him down or hold out to keep tabs on Aubameyang. As the defender hesitates, Smith Rowe slides the ball through to Aubameyang who, in the first pre-season game, can be forgiven for not having the best end product once he was on the ball.

Despite this not leading to a goal, Smith Rowe’s talent and then his know-how lead to a chance that more often than not would have ended in a goal. With Aubameyang playing off the left, this sight may become more familiar to us over the next few weeks if Emery continues to play the youngster on the left side of a three-man midfield.

Awareness

Although he is very sound on the ball, what was also very impressive was how Smith Rowe worked off the ball. By this, I don’t mean he was pressing at every opportunity or tireless when off the ball, but instead he worked very smartly throughout the game. Here’s an example:

With the striker isolated, Smith Rowe realises he only has one option, so he cuts off the passing lane. Something most players would do.
However, when making the interception, some players may simply play safe and clear the ball first time. Instead, Smith Rowe is aware and confident enough to take a touch and pass the ball back. Therefore taking his marker with him and create a massive space for Arsenal to play into.
That’s exactly what we do and Jordi Osei-Tutu is able to advance, relatively untroubled up the left wing.

A very smart piece of play, this is very much in line with the way Arsenal like to play. Retaining possession and being very level headed in his decision making, this was a very encouraging aspect of Smith Rowe’s performance which can set him apart and give him a chance of getting first team minutes at some point this season.

Summary

Of course, it is important to note that the quality of opposition wasn’t the best, however, Smith Rowe did himself no damage with the performance he put in against Boreham Wood. From the outside looking in, he really does look like a youngster that Emery has taken a liking to so I wouldn’t be surprised seeing him play in Singapore.

However, as we go into this tour, it’s probably best not to expect him to replicate the types of clips from academy games which have done the rounds on Twitter. Instead, we’ll definitely see how good he is but more importantly, how he copes against some very good senior sides. Something that I’m sure he’ll take in his stride and hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of Emile Smith Rowe over the 2018/19 season.