Emile Smith Rowe will wear the number 10 shirt for Arsenal in 2021-22, with the midfielder having also agreed to a new contract.
Smith Rowe enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2020-21, with the 20-year-old making 33 appearances across all competitions.
In total, Smith Rowe scored four goals and contributed seven assists, the latter being a joint-high for Arsenal alongside Willian and fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka.
Smith Rowe’s big chance conversion rate of 60 per cent (3/5) also ranked him top of Arsenal’s squad last term (minimum of two big chances).
Though it was his creativity that made Smith Rowe so effective. His 37 open-play key passes was only bettered by Kieran Tierney (41) and Saka (39) in the Gunners side, though both of them played at least 700 more minutes than him. The midfielder’s 1.5 chances created per game was second only to Martin Odegaard (2.2 – minimum 100 minutes played).
However, his future had not been certain. With Arsenal reportedly looking to make Odegaard’s move from Real Madrid permanent, Aston Villa had seen a series of bids rejected for Smith Rowe earlier in the transfer window.
But with Odegaard seemingly unobtainable, Arsenal have now tied Smith Rowe down to a new deal, though the Gunners did not specify the length of the contract.
Smith Rowe has also been given the number 10 shirt, which was last occupied by Mesut Ozil – the number is perhaps best associated in recent memory with Dennis Bergkamp, who was integral to Arsene Wenger’s early success in north London.
“Everyone knows that No.10 is a big shirt and it is definitely a big position as well,” Smith Rowe, who previously wore the number 35, told Arsenal’s official website.
“So I’m buzzing to be honest, I can’t wait to get on the pitch. It’s really special – I can’t explain the feeling when I found out. I’ve not really got the words to explain it right now!
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) July 22, 2021
“The legends that have played here and have worn the shirt… it’s a bit too much right now but I’m sure I will calm down after a while. When I was younger I used to watch Dennis Bergkamp, and when I was going through the academy Mesut Ozil was here as well and getting the opportunity to train with him and play with him as well was unbelievable.
“I just want to keep working hard and hopefully I can play like them and replicate what they’ve done.”
Mikel Arteta added: “As we all saw last season, Emile is an intelligent player with excellent ability. His sharpness on the turn and exceptional vision have already made him a key player for us.
“His attitude and willingness to learn have also been very impressive. Huge credit to our team in our academy who have given Emile a great education and have worked superbly to help with his development through the age groups.”
Smith Rowe’s signing follows on from Arsenal making two additions already this month, with Nuno Tavares having joined from Benfica and Albert Sambi Lokonga coming in from Anderlecht.
Arsenal were scheduled to appear in the Florida Cup – a pre-season tournament in Orlando – next week, but have withdrawn due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their camp.
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