Sunday, October 2, 2022

Smith Rowe’s growing pains : Arteta on Marquinhos

Good morning. A quick Saturday round-up for you.

I wrote earlier in the week about Emile Smith Rowe and the injury issues he’s been dealing with this season. It’s been frustrating for him, I’m sure, and disappointing for us because he contributed so much last season until the injury issues crept in and restricted his playing time.

Mikel Arteta isn’t one to give much away when it comes to the fitness of his players, and he was his usual self yesterday when talking about Smith Rowe’s situation. He said:

It’s been an ongoing issue that he’s had. He’s had some discomfort in the groin area, unfortunately. He hasn’t had any continuity this season and it’s something we are trying to assess and trying to help him as much as possible in any way that we can because we need him fit, we need him available and we need him performing at the best level, because he’s such an important player for us. Unfortunately, for this period and for periods last year, we haven’t had him.

I do wonder what ‘help him as much as possible in any way that we can’ actually means? It’s so vague that it could include physio, rehab, rest, all of that – but it doesn’t preclude other things. It might not speak to this being more serious than we think, but also doesn’t rule it out.

In The Athletic, James reports: “He is experiencing pain in his groin related to growth.

“Although this is not classified as an “injury” per se, Smith Rowe’s situation does require careful management. He will not be rushed. Although there is no time-frame on his return, the club and those around the player do not believe this situation will lead to a long-term absence. Nor do they believe it will affect his bid for a World Cup place.”

Can’t fault the ambition but I’d say his chances of making the World Cup are very slim at this point. To do so he’d have to be back and firing on all cylinders straight after the Interlull as we head into that hectic October schedule. Obviously I hope that happens, but the vagueness around the problem leaves me worried he’ll be available, and then ready to hit that level so quickly.

When thinking about the squad this season, even with Smith Rowe fit I was all on board with the manager’s desire for more firepower before the end of the window. Without him we don’t have the depth on the left hand side I thought we would, with him and Gabriel Martinelli competing and covering each other. Up to now it hasn’t been a massive issue because Martinelli has played so well, but he can’t play every game, and there isn’t a natural alternative in the squad. Not to mention the fact we’re missing a player who scored 10 Premier League goals last season.

No doubt it’s a concern, but time will tell how big. Let’s hope he can get fit for October, because we absolutely need all hands on deck.

His absence might necessitate an opportunity for someone else, and after a sparkling debut in the Europa League, Arteta was asked about summer signing Marquinhos:

It was a big step for him because he hasn’t played enough minutes with us, but we were willing to give him the opportunity. I think he deserved it, I think he took it really well and he’s a player that needs to keep developing and in order to do that we need to give him opportunities.

When our interest in him was announced, Arsenal Twitter was awash with opinion from the various YouTube compilations that people rushed to watch. The consensus, as I remember it, was he had talent but was a bit raw. Perhaps played with his head down a bit too often.

I know it’s only one game, but I didn’t see any of that in his performance against FC Zurich. To me, it looked like the kind of display that had been well and truly ‘coached’ into him. I’m sure they’ve done a lot of work on the training ground with him, and he’ll develop in training anyway, but a goal and an assist – even if you do make some allowance for the calibre of the opposition which is some way below Premier League level – was an excellent return. Not least because of the quality of his run and finish, and the delivery for Eddie’s winner.

As I said, we’re going to need the full depth of our squad next month, and at the very least, Marquinhos will get opportunities in the European games. I’m interested to see what more he can deliver.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. We have a Premier League preview podcast over on Patreon for you, looking ahead to the Brentford game tomorrow. Have a great Saturday folks.

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