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Smith Rowe, Gabriel get national team call-ups

Two of this season’s brightest stars get their first senior national team chances

Arsenal v Watford - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Arsenal have made themselves impossible to ignore in the past two months. The success of the Gunners has seen their fortunes reverse in rapid fashion, and the reasons for their success are numerous. Two of the reasons come from some brilliant individual performances, and few players have had better campaigns than Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Magalhães. Now, both players have been handed their first senior national team call-ups, with Smith Rowe called up to England and Gabriel to Brazil.

It was only a week ago that Gareth Southgate referred to Smith Rowe’s initial exclusion as “unlucky” despite being in the best form of nearly all of England’s current attackers, which is saying something. The Three Lions have an absurd wealth of talented young players in the attack with Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, and Jadon Sancho to name a few. But Smith Rowe has had arguably the most productive season of the lot so far, scoring four goals in the Premier League, three of them coming from the last three matches, while adding two assists as well. His string of performances have had fans and pundits loudly asking what it would take for him to get a shot, especially when England’s next slate of World Cup qualifying matches are particularly manageable.

The answer to that question, at least right now, seems to be injuries. It’s not exactly the ideal circumstances, but opportunity rarely waits for someone to be ready when it knocks. With several players now out after match week 11, Emile has finally been handed his chance, joining Saka and Aaron Ramsdale as Arsenal’s English representatives.

Compared to Smith Rowe’s rather rapid ascendancy, Gabriel has been building his case for the last two seasons quietly and consistently, flying under the radar of despite his impact on the defense. He has been far and away Arsenal’s best defender for two seasons and has been tremendous in Arteta’s initial task of repairing a defense that had been hemorrhaging goals and lacking in strength and fortitude. After weathering a rocky first season alongside David Luiz and Rob Holding, he and new signing Ben White have combined to become one of the more formidable center back pairings in the Premier League.

Much like Smith Rowe, Gabriel’s inclusion comes at the expense of a late injury, with Benfica’s Lucas Verissimo a last-minute scratch.

The inclusion of both players is massive and well-earned, despite relying on injuries to get their chances. Arsenal have not only been seeing their league positions drop recently, but also their international presence. Arsenal’s four lone representatives at the 2021 Euros was slim by their traditional standard, and an indicator of the lack of quality across the roster before the summer transfer window. Smith Rowe and Gabriel have now both been handed their first chance at showing at the national team level what we have all known for quite some time now while also rebuilding the Gunner’s once-massive international imprint.

Well done, lads. Now please, just stay healthy.