Ahead of today’s fairly perfunctory Europa League group-stage match against Qarabag, Arsenal announced the unfortunate news that promising teenage midfielder Emile Smith Rowe would miss the match after suffering a groin injury during training.
Emile Smith Rowe will miss tonight's game after suffering a minor groin strain in training. Likely to be on the sidelines for around two weeks. https://t.co/sTirkhUDMG— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) December 13, 2018
Smith Rowe’s injury is a blow to Arsenal’s depth, but a bigger blow to his development. Through Arsenal’s five Europa League matches, the Arsenal youth academy product has been a central part of the Gunners’ campaign, featuring in four of the five matches while scoring two goals, matching Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Danny Welbeck for most goals scored for Arsenal in the competition. He has impressed many fans and pundits with his sharp performances and has been lauded as one of England’s most promising young players.
His encouraging contributions as a central attacker in Arsenal’s Europa League campaign have given Arsenal fans further reason for excitement about the club’s youth players, as he now joins the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson as the latest Arsenal academy players to be given time with the first team over the past two seasons.
Initial reports have stated that Arsenal estimate that the midfielder will be sidelined for two weeks, labeling the severity of his injury as minor. The nature of groin injuries are rough, though, as they are easy to re-aggravate and often tough to shake. Defender Dinos Mavropanos has only now been cleared to return to training after struggling with a groin injury for the last few months. With the injury, Smith Rowe joins DInos and a growing list of Arsenal players who will miss match time, including Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (ankle), and Rob Holding (ACL).
While two weeks seems manageable in the grand scheme of the season, it unfortunately means that Arsenal will be without Smith Rowe’s services during a particularly congested fixture list. Including today’s Europa League tilt, Arsenal will play six matches over the course of the next 16 days. Although he has not featured for the Gunners in the Premier League, Arsenal’s already-thin roster will now have to deal with the absence of one of the most promising academy players.