With the speculation ever present on the enigma that is Mesut Ozil and his future at the club, there will logically have to be equal speculation on who might occupy the 10 or central attacking midfield role if the German were to depart. That is, of course, assuming that Arteta intends to persist with a conventional 4231 next season. I know we have the small matter of concluding this Premier League season and maybe even winning the FA Cup, but rumours and speculation will only increase in these unprecedented times. (If you do think Arsenal can win the FA Cup why not take advantage of this Bet365 promo.)
It has long been my belief that whilst Ozil has been a premier performer in the past, the modern game requires a different style of 10. If our coach does believe in the system, then our central creative player should be one that cannot only create opportunity by passing – like Ozil – but also be able to beat a man or two to break the lines and chip in with a good quota of goals. If we look at The Gunners campaign to date the goal contribution from midfield has been woeful and the most advanced of our central midfielders is as guilty as most. I often quote the 2012/13 campaign, before the German arrived, when a certain diminutive Spaniard chipped in with 12 goals and 12 assists primarily playing that central role.
It is against this backdrop that today’s article in the Yorkshire Examiner on Emile-Smith Rowe peaked my interest. Since the Arsenal youngster arrived on loan at Huddersfield in January and the Cowley brothers switched to 4231, to accommodate him, The Terriers goals per game average has increased from 1.2 to 1.5. He has added the creativity and guile around the penalty area Huddersfield had been lacking and even more so with their star man Alex Pritchard our injured.
When his loan was secured in January, Danny Cowley, his new coach was effusive:
“We wanted to bring in some enthusiasm and energy and quality at the top end of the pitch and being able to bring in Emile Smith Rowe – for us, we see him as the most exciting young attacking player in English football.”
The Cowley brothers have eased Smith-Rowe in but in only 703 minutes across 10 Championship matches he has 1 goal and 3 assists, (2.6 per 90 mins.) This is more than any other 19-year-old in the division but does not tell the whole story (Ozil’s supporters might say the same) as the youngster has the highest average key passes on any Huddersfield player this season with an average of 2.4 per ninety minutes. These are passes that created goal scoring passes not executed.
The article goes on to highlight that ESR’s passing accuracy at 86%, is the second best at the club, which, as it points out, is more impressive for a Number 10, expected to make risker passes to inflict the most damage. Indeed, he has even found his intended recipient with 7 of 8 long passes attempted.
Lastly, and the stats that excite me the most are the dribbling and take-on figures. Smith-Rowe attempts a dribble to beat a man, on average 3.8 times by match and is successful 56% of the time. Arsenal have not had this at 10 since Cazorla, barring odd run outs for Rosicky or Wilshere in the role.
Admittedly none of this guarantees Emile Smith-Rowe is ready to carry Arsenal’s Creative threat on his own in 2020/21 but I would argue it brings him firmly into the reckoning. It is an exciting time for the supporters with so many talented youngsters at the club and you can bet ESR is watching Sala, Nelson and Nketiah with envy – desperate to join them once more.