On-loan Arsenal attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe is set to finish the season at Huddersfield Town, according to The National.* The 19-year old joined the Championship side during the January transfer window and appeared in all 10 matches for the club, scoring a goal and adding two assists over eight starts and two substitute appearances. His contributions have helped Huddersfield to four wins and twelve critical points to ease the relegation pressure.
The Championship is set to return to play on June 20th, and Smith Rowe will play a critical role in Huddersfield’s fight to stay up. They sit in 18th, only three points clear of the drop. Reminder: there are 24 teams in the Championship. The first weekend back, the Terriers have a critical matchup against Wigan Athletic, who trail them by only a point.
Smith Rowe spoke highly of the coaching staff at Huddersfield. “It is like a family here,” he said, “Danny [Cowley] has been amazing. Nicky as well. I can’t thank them enough.” The brothers, who have worked their way up through the lower tiers of the English pyramid both as players and managers, helped him adapt to the physicality of the league. That playing experience should help the oft-injured Smith Rowe stay healthier when he returns to Arsenal. Although there is an element of randomness to injuries, there are little things players can do, like anticipating and avoiding contact, that can help keep them on the pitch and out of the training room.
Smith Rowe said he has met virtually with Mikel Arteta during the hiatus and discussed what he needs to improve in his game to make an impact for the Gunners. He also said the playing time Arteta is giving the young players in his Hale End cohort motivates him to earn his slice of the action next season.
Barring a major shakeup this summer, the attacking stable is congested for 2020-21. Beyond that, spots begin to open up. Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Mesut Özil all face uncertain futures in North London. Even if they are with the club next season, with Mikel Arteta looking to overhaul the roster and “see what he has,” Smith Rowe should get a chance to earn a spot in the long-term plan.
Exactly what spot, however, is an open question. Smith Rowe says he is most comfortable as a #10 but that he understands the importance of being positionally flexible. Interestingly (or perhaps, not surprisingly, given that Arteta is in charge), ESR says he models his game after Kevin de Bruyne. He also said he tries to learn everything he can from training alongside Mesut Özil and that as a lifelong Arsenal fan, he looks to Dennis Bergkamp for inspiration. He’s definitely picked a solid group of players to emulate.
*Loans expire at the end of June. Although nothing is set in stone, it appears as if the FA and FIFA are not going to allow returning loan players to play for their parent clubs except in extreme circumstances. The players and clubs can continue the loan through the end of the extended season, which is what Arsenal, Huddersfield, and Emile Smith Rowe are expected to do.