Emile Smith Rowe is expected to make his long-awaited return from injury against Oxford United in the FA Cup 3rd round at the weekend, per Amy Lawrence in The Athletic. The Arsenal attacker has been out of action since having surgery in late September to repair a damaged groin tendon that had been causing problems for him on and off for months.
I’d expect Smith Rowe to play 45 to 60 minutes tops against the League One side as he works back into match shape and sharpness. If all goes well, he should be available for the important upcoming Premier League matches at Tottenham and home to Manchester United. I doubt he’ll start either game but having him available as an impact sub, especially if the Gunners need a goal, would be fantastic. The Arsenal substitute attacking options had been looking pretty lean with ESR, Reiss Nelson, and Gabriel Jesus all out of action.
Arsenal definitely could have used ESR off the bench against Newcastle. His secondary, interior / underlapping runs might have proved the key to unlock the Magpies defensive strategy of sending two or three players wide to cover Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. There was space to be exploited in the inside channels. Further, Smith Rowe gets himself into the box. While it may seem counterintuitive to add a body to an area that Newcastle were stuffing with players, another Arsenal shirt in there might have made a difference.
His return will lighten the minutes load on Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, too. That should in turn keep the wingers fresher and more dangerous. While I don’t expect Mikel Arteta to change the starting XI too often, having the option to switch things up and give opponents a different look, whether from the opening whistle or in the second half, will bolster the Arsenal attack.
It’s like a new signing, y’all.