Arsenal star Emile Smith Rowe during the Arsenal Media Day at the Arsenal Training Ground at London Colney on August 01, 2022 in St Albans, England.

(Image credit: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal star Emile Smith Rowe enjoyed his breakout season last year with 10 Premier League goals from the left and England call-ups. This season, he’s yet to start a match.

It’s worrying for Gooners who perhaps wondered if the 22-year-old could take his game to another level this term. With the signing of Leandro Trossard, too, it seems as if there’s no winning his place back on the left wing of Mikel Arteta’s side, with Gabriel Martinelli one of the first names on the team sheet and a Prem-proven option as deputy.

Yet despite the uncertainty going forward for ESR, his place in the team is perhaps clearer than it ever has been – and he could yet be a missing piece. 

“I think you’ve just got to adapt,” Arsenal’s No.10 said when FFT asked him his favourite role on the field. “I don’t think I have a preferred position. We all train in different positions, I’ll train as a false nine, left-wing or midfield. But Mikel is so good, he gives us all the information to help us improve which is good. I’m not too sure where I’m best.”

It was clear to see where he was best when Arteta first dropped him into the heat of the Premier League against Chelsea on Boxing Day 2021. In Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation, the Hale End graduate slotted in as a playmaker behind the No.9 for much of his first season – but over time, he’s moved out to the left-hand side for the Gunners. That’s where he played most often last season.

But the plan has been clearer ever since Martinelli took that left-hand berth from him. Against Bournemouth at the start of the season, Smith Rowe replaced captain Martin Odegaard as Arsenal semi-switched back to the 4-2-3-1 with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka forming more of a double-pivot midfield that looked fluid. 

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