Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Smith Rowe provided food for thought

Everyone loves a bit of good PR these days. Just look at Man Utd’s ‘CEO of Media’ Phil Lynch whose recent appearance on a podcast talking about how they ‘manage the narrative’ for their players brought nothing but good vibes and widespread praise for the way they try to manipulate their fans via social media

Oh. Hang on. No. That’s not good PR at all. That’s a discussion for another day perhaps.

England. The FA. They’re a little bit smarter. When Emile Smith Rowe got called up to the squad for the first time, you might have thought letting him settle in without too much spotlight would be the best thing to do. Don’t put any pressure on him. It’s still less than a year since he was thrust into action against Chelsea in the Premier League, helping to provide a spark which stopped a thoroughly dreadful run of form.

Since then he’s become fundamental to this Arsenal team, and in recent weeks his form has won him a place for his national side. Maybe it came because others were absent through injury/illness, but that’s the way it goes. It doesn’t alter the fact he’s been one of the best players in the league in recent weeks. He is only 20 though and, having yet to make his debut, a low-key training camp would probably have been the best thing.

No chance. Everyone loves a fresh-faced new boy. He has no track record of letting his country down. Let’s get him out there in front of the press, because they can’t possibly find a thing to be critical about. It’s a good news story! He’s 20. Look at him, all blond and personable still not quite fully formed in himself. The column inches will be as golden as his recent on-pitch performances.

So it goes. I guess in the world we live in right now, it’s only vaguely cynical compared to some of what goes on, and to be fair, we got some interesting stuff from him. A couple of weeks ago, Mikel Arteta spoke glowingly of him after his display in the 3-1 win over Aston Villa, during which he scored a superb breakaway goal. The manager referenced some off-pitch changes Smith Rowe had made, saying:

He’s changed the way he’s living a little bit as well, and some habits that he had.

At the time we wondered what they might be. After meeting the press on England duty, we now know it was chocolate, not drinking enough water, and too much Nando’s – the world’s most overrated chicken. Smith Rowe said:

What he was talking about was my diet. I didn’t used to eat that well. I used to get cramp after 60 minutes. Before games I wasn’t really that hydrated. I liked Nando’s a lot.

And it’s not as if this was stuff he was unaware of, saying the club were ‘strict’ about things like diet and nutrition, but also that he didn’t really listen. Now, he says he’s listening all the time, the club have sorted out a chef to cook his meals so he can avoid the wrong kind of foods, and I think we can see that there’s been some real benefit to that. Perhaps some might view it as marginal, but what he says about cramping after 60 minutes is borne out by stats. In 20 Premier League appearances last season, he did the full 90 minutes seven times; he’s already matched that in 11 games this season, and in two others he played 88 and 86 minutes. Playing more often and building match fitness will have played a part in that, but the schedule demands players take care of themselves, and it seems like he’s doing better in that regard too.

On the one hand, it does seem a bit mad that for all the expert advice young players get, knowing full well they should be doing certain things for the benefit of their bodies and ultimately their careers, there are still bad habits. On the other hand though, these are still young men, and while they are blessed with incredible talent, ask yourself how well you ate and how well you lived at 20 years of age. It’s way too easy to be kind of person who says ‘Well, if I had that kind of opportunity I’d do X, Y or Z’, but at 21 my ambition was to drink 21 beers on my 21st birthday, even though I knew that was really stupid.

It’s hard to eschew stuff that tastes good until you realise there’s other stuff that also tastes good. If you have no concept of cooking, ingredients or food preparation, it’s simple to just go with what you’ve always done and assume your youthfulness and hard work in training might offset that. The important thing is that he has learned, albeit with some help, and hopefully that will stand him in good stead.

As a young player he went through some difficult periods with injury, growing pains and all the rest. I can recall in those early appearances last season being so impressed with what he brought to the team, but also worried every time he got a kick or a cramp that it might be something serious. Fingers crossed, he seems to have become more robust, and he’s not the only player of late Arteta has referenced some lifestyle changes about. Perhaps it’s rubbing off on others.

Anyway, let’s hope he can do well for England if he gets picked, and he can carry on what has been a really promising season so far on the other side of this Interlull.

A couple of quick bits for you. Patreon members have a new episode of the Statements podcast available for them right now, in which I put statements to a guest which they have to either Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree with. This time, I’m joined by Clive Palmer (@clivepafc) for good chats about Arsene Wenger, Gabriel Martinelli, rotational fouling, and loads more. Get it here.

Arsenal Women were in Champions League action last night, beating HB Køge Women 5-1. Tim Stillman was there and you can find reaction, video analysis and more over on Arseblog News as we continue to expand our coverage of the Women’s team. There’s also a new episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast dropping later today with some fascinating insight into how the WSL is being covered by Sky Sports this season.

Finally, just a reminder that we’re up for Best Fan Media at the 2021 FSA Awards. If you could take the time to give us your vote to help us defend our title, we’d really appreciate it –

Right, that’s it. More tomorrow, including a brand new old-skool Arsecast. Until then, take it easy.

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