Emile Smith Rowe is “all over the place” for Arsenal in a way Mesut Ozil never was, says Ian Wright, with the Gunners finding a playmaker on their doorstep that is capable of mixing graft and guile.
Mikel Arteta found himself crying out for a creative spark around Christmas as he reflected on a worst start to a season in north London since 1974-75.
World Cup winner Ozil had been frozen out of the fold, with Arsenal looking to move in a different direction with a rookie Spanish tactician calling the shots.
Plenty questioned the decision to omit a proven performer from domestic and continental squads, but a solution to the Gunners’ problems has been found.
Arteta has looked in-house for inspiration, with academy graduates such as Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka taking on more prominent roles.
Wright is delighted to see Arsenal embracing a home-grown core, with youth production having always been a big part of the club’s make-up.
Smith Rowe, at 20 years of age and with only 12 appearances for the Gunners to his name before this season, has become a key man over recent weeks, with another eye-catching performance put in during a 3-0 victory over Newcastle.
“He’s had a couple of injuries and gone out on loan a couple of times. They know what he’s capable of.
“When you look at him in the academy and the first team, apart from Ozil, they are not many players who play in that hole like he does.
“On the half-turn, with a lot more energy and pace than anybody else. Maybe even Ozil when he’s in there.
“He’s all over the place. He’s got a lovely touch. He has realised that this is where I am meant to be. I am ready. He has taken [his chance].
“When you are playing against an Arsenal side, in the current form, with the energy of Saka and Smith-Rowe... And I have to say Cedric at right-back was brilliant. [Thomas] Partey was magnificent.”
Arsenal have taken 13 points from their last five Premier League fixtures, with a welcome return to form lifting them away from relegation danger and back into the top half of the table.