Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is ready to bet on Emile Smith Rowe ahead of the side’s Premier League clash with Southampton.
The Gunners take on the Saints at St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday in a must-win clash without striker Alexandre Lacazette, who suffered the injury in training. In the Frenchman’s absence, Arteta has hinted that he will play Smith Rowe in a false nine position.
The team’s UEFA Champions League ambitions have recently taken a hit with back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Brighton. This allowed Tottenham Hotspur to steal a march on the Gunners, leading by three points.
Arsenal have one game less against their derby rivals but injuries remain a big concern as Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney are likely to miss the rest of the season.
For the unmissable clash against Southampton, Lacazette is absent, as he has not traveled with the team. Arteta will therefore be forced to make changes in attack. Eddie Nketiah is an option, but he hasn’t scored in the league this season, while Gabriel Martinelli isn’t too familiar with the central role.
Arteta teased the possibility of starting Smith Rowe more centrally as a false nine. It’s something the player hasn’t operated on since the Gunners’ UEFA Europa League clash against Villarreal last year.
The Spaniard was asked if the youngster was capable of reprising the role, to which he replied:
“He wasn’t quite fit to train and play every game, but that’s a possibility. It’s a position I think he can do in the future, but he needs of training and experience.”
The England international is the Gunners’ joint top scorer in the Premier League this season with nine goals in 26 games. Most of the strikes came from his preferred position on the left.
Arsenal manager hints he persists with 4-3-3
Considering all the key players’ injuries, it’s a question of whether Arteta will stick to the 4-3-3 formation. The Arsenal manager has hinted he could put his side in this form given their lack of options. He said:
“We have different qualities and depending on the role and what the game requires or the spaces you want to attack or defend. It can become more difficult due to the number we have. Obviously we don’t have the ability to change too much there.”