“A possibility” – Mikel Arteta hints at taking gamble with 21-year-old Arsenal midfielder in new role


Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is willing to take a gamble on Emile Smith Rowe ahead of the team’s Premier League clash with Southampton.

The Gunners take on the Saints at the St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday in a must-win clash without striker Alexandre Lacazette, who picked up an injury in training. In the Frenchman’s absence, Arteta hinted at playing Smith Rowe in a false nine position.

The team’s UEFA Champions League ambitions took a hit recently with back-to-back losses to Crystal Palace and Brighton. That has allowed Tottenham Hotspur to steal a march on the Gunners, leading by three points.

Arsenal have a game in hand over their derby rivals, but injuries remain a big worry as Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney are likely to miss the remainder of the season.

Alex Lacazette hasn’t travelled with the Arsenal team to Southampton today. #afc

For the must-win clash against Southampton, Lacazette is out, as he hasn’t travelled with the squad. So Arteta will be forced to make changes in attack. Eddie Nketiah is an option, but he hasn’t scored in the league this season, whereas Gabriel Martinelli isn’t too familiar with the central role.

Arteta has teased the possibility of starting Smith Rowe more centrally as a false nine. That is something the player hasn’t operated in since the Gunners’ UEFA Europa League clash against Villarreal last year.

Mikel Arteta tells me that Emile Smith Rowe needs training if he’s to play as a false nine which is something he’s not been able to do due to his lack of fitness recently

The Spaniard was questioned if the youngster is capable of taking on the role again, to which he said:

“He’s not been completely fit to be training and playing every game, but it’s a possibility. It’s a position that I think he can fulfil in the future, but he needs training, and he needs experience in.”

The England international is the Gunners’ joint top-scorer in the Premier League this season with nine goals from 26 games. Most of the strikes have come from his preferred position on the left.

Arsenal manager hints at persisting with 4-3-3

Given all the injuries to key players, it’s a question of whether Arteta will stick with the 4-3-3 formation. The Arsenal manager hinted that he might set his team out in that shape considering their lack of options. He said:

“We have different qualities and depending on the role and what the game requires or the spaces that you want to attack or defend. It can become more challenging because of the numbers that we have. It’s obvious that we don’t have the capacity to change too much there.”


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