Interlull greetings to you. I saw a story yesterday about Emile Smith Rowe not being in England training and I did not care for it one bit. Gareth Southgate said, “Emile didn’t train today, so I think it’s unlikely he would be involved tomorrow.”
England are playing Switzerland (today now, not tomorrow, because this was yesterday), and next week there’s another friendly against Ivory Coast. Southgate did say it was ‘nothing too serious’ (earworm for any Icehouse fans out there), but it’s still something and I don’t like it. I prefer nothing at all (earworm for any Ned Flanders fans out there).
When you look at the minutes he played earlier in the season and the minutes he’s played more recently there’s a very obvious pattern. Up until the Man Utd game in mid-December it was: 90, 90, 90, 28, 61, 88. 90, 90. 90. 90, 90, 86, 90, 90, 70.
Since then (with some injury and Covid absences from the squad entirely), it’s: 24, 12, 8, 19, 77, 22, 75, 12, 23, 90.
A marked difference. I know international managers can do what they like and they have every right to call up players. I also realise that for the players themselves it’s a real honour, something they want to be involved in, but when the two games are meaningless friendlies shouldn’t there be a bit more consideration about the medium/long-term when it comes to a player who is very clearly struggling to stay at the required physical level?
It’s not especially surprising. Smith Rowe is still just 21, and he went from being a nicely developing prospect to a first team regular more or less overnight. He’s still maturing physically, and you can see how his body has changed a lot in the last year and a half or so. A lot of young players go through a period where they’re affected by that step up in level and the demands placed on their bodies, and it looks like that’s happening here.
As he said earlier in the season, he’s had to completely revamp his lifestyle in terms of what he eats and how he lives:
I like Nando’s a lot. They [Arsenal] are strict but I didn’t really listen.
That’s where I went wrong. But now I’m listening, all the time. I’ve tried to cut out chocolate and takeaways. The club have sorted me out a chef called Chris and he comes to my house.
Nevertheless, he has been struggling for full fitness for a few months now. Arteta has been quite cautious with him, so if he’s ruled out of an England game this weekend, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Arsenal fans to be a bit worried about his potential participation in next week’s fixture. Maybe it’ll be beneficial to his fitness, but I think that glass is the most half full glass you can think of.
The thing about injuries late in the season is that they feel more impactful, there’s so much packed into the final weeks that something that feels almost routine can easily be season ending. We’re already on a bit of a knife-edge because of how light the squad is, we don’t have a lot of depth in key positions, so injuries are likely to hurt us more than some other sides who have replacements closer in level to the players who might be absent
Let’s hope that common sense applies to Smith Rowe at an England level, that no risks are taken just to give him minutes in a nothing game, and that everyone else comes back fit and healthy too.
Elsewhere in the Interlull, Gabriel Martinelli made his senior debut for Brazil, while William Saliba came on to do likewise for France last night. Nicolas Pepe scored a superb goal for Ivory Coast against France, KT scored for Scotland the other night, while Martin Odegaard curled home a beauty for Norway. There may be others in action, but I haven’t had a chance to look around properly yet this morning.
Right, let’s leave it there for today. Have a great Saturday, back here tomorrow.