Monday, November 28, 2022

Emile Smith blow …

Happy Friday to you, and it’s the eve of the North London derby as we kick off again after the Interlull.

Mikel Arteta will meet the press this afternoon, and there’ll be some anxiety over the fitness of a few players. Quite how much information we get from the manager is another thing – the true reveal of our injury situation will likely be in our team line-up when it drops on Saturday, but perhaps we’ll get something concrete on the likes of Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomiyasu.

One man who won’t be available is Emile Smith Rowe, after it was announced yesterday he had surgery on a groin problem. The club say:

In recent months, Emile Smith Rowe has been experiencing discomfort in his groin, which has limited his training and match appearances.

Following a significant setback at our Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford on September 4, and after further specialist consultations and discussions with our medical team, Emile underwent surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his groin.

This successful surgery took place in London in the past few days and Emile’s rehabilitation programme is already underway. We are hopeful that Emile will return to full training in December.

It’s a shame, but not really a big surprise when you consider how he’s been struggling for minutes this season. It wasn’t just the form of Gabriel Martinelli that kept him out of the team, it was this ongoing issue which meant he had no pre-season of note, and which seemed to have impacted him towards the end of last season as I outlined earlier in the month.

It now means he’ll be out of action until after the World Cup, which sounds like a long way away, but in reality we have 6 weeks until the break. Sure, there’s a lot of football between now and then, and I’d feel more comfortable about this upcoming run with a fully fit Smith Rowe available, but there’s also a lot of football after that tournament is over, and I guess the sensible decision is to ensure he’s ready for that.

Having had the surgery already, when you add the period he’ll miss plus the period in which football stops for the World Cup, we’re looking at around 10/11 weeks, in which time we hope he can get himself back on track. Assuming the surgery is a success, of course, but fingers crossed in that regard, because he has had a series of injuries in the early part of his career which may well be connected to an underlying problem. You’ll recall he went on loan to RB Leipzig but didn’t play, and again that was listed as a groin problem. So, let’s hope the surgery sorts this out, and once he’s back he’s ready to stay fit and contribute in the second half of this strange season.

The big issue for Mikel Arteta is that the Smith Rowe/Martinelli left hand side was nicely balanced in terms of quality, even if they are different in how they play. Let’s not forget Smith Rowe was our second highest scorer last season too, so we’re missing goals, and it’s a problem for the manager in this hectic because there isn’t an obvious replacement. There are things he could do, moving players around and so on, but if we assume at this point that Marquinhos is the man who will deputise for Bukayo Saka on the right, who is that player on the left?

When writing about this the other day, I forgot completely about Reiss Nelson, which might say more about my memory than anything else, but he’s a player who has fallen through the cracks a little. I didn’t expect him to be here this season, but an injury meant he couldn’t go anywhere else, and while he hasn’t played much on the left, when we’ve got Europa League fixtures and we have to take care of Martinelli’s minutes, maybe he’s an option.

I’d be very surprised if he had any longer term future here, but the manager is going to have to use the full extent of his squad in October and early November, and Nelson has sufficient experience to do a job there if asked. He’s now back in full training, and as we prepare for the derby this weekend and Liverpool in the league next weekend, there’s a game against Bodo/Glimt to consider sandwiched between them. I don’t even think this is so much a chance for Nelson as a way for the manager to rest more important players, but he might well view it as a way to put himself back in the shop window as he considers his long-term future. Let’s see how it goes.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast chatting to Rory Smith about his fascinating new book ‘Expected Goals’, which will appeal if you’re into stats or not. We’ll have also be releasing our Patreon preview podcast to everyone later today, I’m recording that a bit later when I get to London, and it should drop around late afternoon.

For now, have a good one!

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