Arsenal have always been a team with long-term success on the mind. Arsene Wenger’s hard work paid off quickly when he came to the Emirates, but it was many years later in the early 2000s in which the Frenchman saw the real fruits of his labour. The framework for the famous Invincibles began several years earlier, and whilst he wasn’t able to reach those heights again, Wenger continued to plan for that event.
Young players like Aaron Ramsey were signed, and whilst their success varied, the goal was always evident.
Unai Emery, unsurprisingly, has continued in that vain so far. Clearly told to plan for a long-term vision at the Emirates, everything that he has done so far has screamed the future, even if indirectly.
Major signings have been made, many of which are of a younger age. Lucas Torreira for example, alongside Matteo Guendouzi, seem to indicate at a new-look Arsenal midfield that likely won’t be at full strength for the next year or two – but could thereafter look to dominate the Premier League. The arrival of Bernd Leno is another example of this, with Emery landing him with a vision to eventually replace Petr Cech with the German.
Meanwhile, a number of exits have also reinforced this view. Per Mertesacker’s retirement has reduced the average age of the squad significantly, whilst other players like Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Lucas Perez have been ruthlessly shipped out as Emery looks to transition to a new vision for the future.
Obviously, the main goal when planning for the future is to build homegrown talent that are able to, eventually, make a first-team impact. Emery is working on that, too, with the Daily Mail reporting that he’s made the personal decision to hang on to midfielder Emile Smith Rowe. This decision, perhaps above all the others, indicates Emery’s desire to plan ahead.
Of course, his intentions have been clear from early on, given that Smith Rowe has been involved in the Arsenal first team since the arrival of Emery. He was one of a select few young players taken on tour with the Gunners, and he played a fairly regular role in their squad. Naturally, then, the Spaniard is a big fan – and that’s great for both the club and the player. When a manager has a certain affinity for a player, that can lead to big things. Look at Man Utd and Scott McTominay, for example. He wasn’t exactly knocking on the first team’s door until Jose Mourinho saw something in him – and so manager faith is so key.
As a result of this decision, Emery’s job becomes more difficult as he has to manage another player in training. However, the results of this can be huge. You simply cannot understate the importance of being able to train with top class players every single day, and as a result of Emery’s decision, Smith Rowe will be doing exactly that. He might not be playing on a Saturday or a Sunday every week, but he’ll still be training up to five or six times a week – and that’s significant.
He could be shipped out on loan, and that’s a sound strategy for many players, but there are also pros to remaining at the club. Arsenal are a unique club, with unique methods and a unique style of play. A loan to a Championship or even Premier League club would be helpful, but it wouldn’t do much to ease the transition into the Arsenal first team squad. It’s far more useful for a youngster that will eventually end up in the team to grow within it; and Emery can mould him in a certain direction as a result.
There’s also the fear of a player simply being forgotten about whilst on loan. Of course, Arsenal use the loan system very differently, but the issues with this can be seen clearly at Chelsea – whereby can go on loan and unless they make a huge impact, their ability is lost in the shuffle somewhat. Whilst Arsenal’s number of loanees is smaller, this is still a concern.
Smith Rowe needs to play, that’s a given, but Arsenal are in a many competitions this season. The Europa League, the EFL Cup, the FA Cup – by September, Arsenal will be playing 2 games practically every week. It’s simply not feasible for a player to play each game, and so chances will come.
The show of faith that Emery has already sent his way should give him the confidence to go out there and do what he does best, and given the poor recent form of Mesut Ozil, a few good performances should genuinely get the manager thinking. If Emery backs up this faith with more faith on the field, the results could be huge for Arsenal.
Arsenal fans – thoughts?
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