With Arsenal back from their mid-season training camp in Dubai, the transfer rumors are heating up. The January window closes in less than two weeks and the Gunners may do some tinkering around the edges of the squad before it shuts. The latest rumor links Emile Smith Rowe with a loan to West Ham for the second half of the season.
Since his breakout 2021-22 season, the Hale End product has struggled with fitness, which has prevented him from finding consistent form and earning an extended run in the side. It also seems as if he might not have the full confidence of Mikel Arteta, with rumors (that have died down, to be fair) that perhaps Smith Rowe doesn’t show well in training.
The scuttlebutt from the Dubai camp was that ESR looked particularly good. With Arsenal in an attacking rut, it seems strange to loan out a player capable of scoring double digit Premier League goals, particularly with Fabio Vieira still a few weeks away from being available. According to James Benge, “those who know Emile Smith Rowe well say he’s ‘all in’ on winning his place back in the Arsenal XI this season.”
Smith Rowe’s strengths — secondary and tertiary runs from deeper positions into the box and combination passing to carry / progress the ball into the box — are sorely lacking in the current attacking setup. He’s direct. That’s what has everyone pining for him to get more playing time and baffled by his lack thereof. He seems like the kind of player that could spark the attack.
He needs to play, however. And if Mikel Arteta doesn’t trust him, rates other players higher, or isn’t going to use him for whatever reason, a loan makes some sense. Either with an eye towards getting him back firing on all cylinders for next season or to boost his value and profile. I’ve long suspected that at some point, Arsenal were going to have to sell a talented player to continue remaking the squad according to Mikel Arteta’s vision, and Emile Smith Rowe is probably the most valuable salable asset. He’s still young and has the potential to improve, has already demonstrated he can score in the Premier League, and is homegrown.
Arsenal are reportedly running up against financial restrictions and booking a significant profit on a player sale, even if that’s 6 months from now, would help alleviate the hardship. You look at Mason Mount moving to Manchester United for £60M as a potential comp for an ESR sale. Mount has a more established track record, Smith Rowe is younger. A number in the £50-60M range seems fair. That said, selling him in the summer doesn’t help Arsenal’s current financial situation and a loan doesn’t really move the money needle.
And let’s not get ahead of ourselves (me, I’m the one doing it). I’ve spun an Emile Smith Rowe loan rumor into him being sold in the summer. While that is one of the routes this thing could go, it’s also possible that ESR stays, hopefully stays fit, fights for his spot, and becomes a meaningful contributor in the second half of the season.
Mikel Arteta spoke highly of the young attacker in his most recent press conference:
I’m really happy with Emile. He’s on the right trajectory and now he’s settled, he’s training really well and you know that I won’t be talking about any individual situation...Emile is Emile. He’s got incredible qualities and we really happy to have him. What he needs now is chances to put all the qualities that he has on the pitch. In order to do that we have to give him minutes.
It’s tough for me to see Arsenal loaning out a talented player who could help the floundering attack. I don’t think a temporary deal moves the financial needle enough for the club to bring in an impact-making attacking addition, so why do the deal if you’re Arsenal? If Emile Smith Rowe does get loaned out, I think that would be a pretty clear signal that he doesn’t have a future with the club.