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Smith Rowe for England? Arteta backs Arsenal midfielder to make the step up

By Rob Lancaster
Emile Smith Rowe and Mikel Arteta

London, March 5: Emile Smith Rowe has all the attributes and qualities required to play for England having been phenomenal for Arsenal this season, according to Mikel Arteta.

After getting a taste of first-team action at Arsenal in the previous two seasons, as well as spending time out on loan at RB Leipzig and Huddersfield Town, the midfielder has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent months.

Smith Rowe had not even featured in the Premier League before Arteta included him in the starting XI for the Boxing Day win over Chelsea.

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Since then, however, he has been involved in every league fixture for the Gunners, making 11 starts as well as an appearance as a substitute in the 0-1 home loss to Manchester City last month.

His involvement against Leicester City last Sunday was cut short by a hip injury Arteta hopes is not too significant, considering the player has gone from peripheral figure to key cog, leading to speculation over an England call up.

With his club boss having no doubts whatsoever over the 20-year-old's talent and temperament, with Smith Rowe potentially set to follow Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka in making the step up to Gareth Southgate’s full squad after playing international football at youth level.

However, there is still plenty of room for improvement too – particularly when it comes to adding goals to his game.

Asked if Smith Rowe could be selected by England for their trio of World Cup qualifiers in March, Arteta replied: "I think it's possible. If he shows the same determination as Bukayo, be as humble as he is and play with the personality he has done, he has a great chance."

"Emile has got all the attributes, all the qualities that you need to play for this football club and, in my opinion, for the national team.

"I'm talking about finding the consistency level that is required, because that level is as good as it gets. But I think he has shown in moments this season what he can do. It's now about doing it for longer periods.

"I think for us, it's more goals, being a threat all the time and working as hard as he has been doing, because I think he has been phenomenal for us."

Smith Rowe's emergence at Emirates Stadium provides a further option for Southgate, particularly with the delayed Euro 2020 tournament to come at the end of a hectic season for top-flight clubs.

Jack Grealish impressed for England during the previous international break towards the end of 2020, though the Aston Villa playmaker is currently sidelined due to injury. Still, his tally of 10 assists in the Premier League this term demonstrates his creative abilities - only Kevin De Bruyne (11) has managed more when it comes to midfielders playing in the competition.

Phil Foden scored twice in the 4-0 win over Iceland last November, a game that saw Mason Mount selected from the start. James Ward-Prowse was forced to withdraw from the squad as a precautionary measure, while there was no room for James Maddison, another currently out of action.

Yet Smith Rowe has numbers that stack up in comparison to his potential rivals for a spot, creating four assists for Arsenal in his 12 league outings while completing 87.32 per cent of his passes (only Foden – at 87.65 - has a better pass success rate for English midfielders who have made 10 appearances and provided at least two assists in the Premier League).

As Arteta pointed out, posing a greater goal threat - Smith Rowe has scored just once in the campaign so far – would further enhance his case.

It may well be that this year's European Championship comes too soon, but Southgate at least has another name to consider in an already crowded position, not just for now but also for the long term.

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Story first published: Friday, March 5, 2021, 17:30 [IST]
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