In a week in which there has not been much cause for celebration, Arsenal fans will have rejoiced at the news that the club have opened talks with Emile Smith-Rowe over a new contract. Affectionately named the ‘Croydon De Bruyne,’ Smith-Rowe has enjoyed a breakthrough season in English football. A new contract is more than deserved.
Emile Smith-Rowe Set for New Arsenal Contract
Previous Loan Move
Emile Smith-Rowe arrived back from his loan move at Huddersfield Town before the 2020/21 season began with some serious expectation. He was one of the Terriers’ bright sparks in the second half of last season and fans desperately wanted him to stay.
The highlight from his loan move was a winner against West Bromwich Albion in a 2-1 victory. The goal, along with some other solid performances, meant he helped steer the club away from relegation. The Terriers were rumoured to be looking to get him back on loan in the 2021 January transfer window, and they may have had a chance if not for a game in late December for Arsenal.
A Breakthrough Season for Smith-Rowe
It is no coincidence that Emile Smith-Rowe’s introduction to the first team coincided with the Gunners’ upturn in form. He was brought in around the Christmas period during a time of serious turmoil for Arsenal.
Relegation talk went from online banter to genuine concern as they sat in 15th position at Christmas. In a match against Chelsea on Boxing Day, Mikel Arteta gave Smith-Rowe his first start of the season in a surprising move. He repaid his boss with a superb performance as Arsenal secured a 3-1 over their London rivals, providing an assist for Arsenal’s third that helped put the game beyond Chelsea’s reach.
It was Arsenal’s first win in seven games, in which they had lost five. Smith-Rowe went on to start the following nine games, proving with each passing match that he was worthy of a place in Arteta’s set up.
There is an infectious energy that Smith-Rowe brings to his game that was lacking throughout that horrendous pre-Christmas run. Since Arteta was named Arsenal manager, he has been attempting to fix the defensive issues that have plagued the side for a long time. Yet, it seemed to come at a cost. The team lost the sort of fluid attacking play that has been synonymous with Arsenal for years. Some outspoken pundits were even calling the team boring. Smith-Rowe, however, has added the sort of flair that Arsenal were not finding from other wide players like Willian or Pepe.
His strong form was epitomised in March’s North London Derby against Tottenham. Emile Smith-Rowe was named the man of the match as he produced the sort of direct, high-energy performance that Arsenal fans are beginning to become accustomed to. He grabbed himself an assist as his side triumphed 2-1. It is performances like that that will be earning Emile Smith-Rowe a new deal at The Emirates.
Building for the Future
Young players stepping up to the plate has probably been the biggest positive of Arsenal’s 2020/21 season. The announcement of Smith-Rowe’s contract talks come off the back of the announcement that youngster Folarin Balogun signed a new deal at the club. The striker reportedly had a host of attractive offers yet decided to stick with Arsenal.
Bukayo Saka is another stand out youngster that has repeatedly produced the goods for his side this year. While he signed an extension last year, it would not be at all surprising to see Arsenal look to tie him down for even longer, and for more money, if he continues to play the way he has been.
Even now, as Arsenal have slumped back to a period of uninspiring form, the Croydon De Bruyne continues to shine brightly for his team. In a short space of time, he has managed to progress from a star of the future to Arsenal’s star of today.