Soccer

Mikel Arteta backs Emile Smith Rowe to be better player following injury setback

Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe (John Walton/PA)
Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe (John Walton/PA) Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe (John Walton/PA)

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has told Emile Smith Rowe to use his latest injury setback as fuel to return to action better than ever.

Smith Rowe has been sidelined with a knee injury and has not featured since a 5-0 win over Sheffield United on October 28.

The England international is back among the squad and has travelled to the Netherlands for Arsenal’s Champions League group-stage dead rubber at PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.

Both sides have already qualified for the last 16 and the Gunners are also assured of advancing in top-spot.

It remains to be seen what role, if any, Smith Rowe will fulfil on Tuesday but, asked if Smith Rowe needs to start again following another injury lay-off as he aims to keep fit for a prolonged period, Arteta replied:: “I think what he’s been through is part of the experience that 90 per cent of footballers have to go through.

“Difficulties, injuries, setbacks and different types of performances now. That’s all in his bag now. If he can use that in a powerful way he’ll be a much better player.

“The way he’s done his rehab, I haven’t seen him do it before like how he’s done it this time. You see the way his team-mates reacted to his comeback which is really positive as well.

“The moment we can give him chances, the better we’re going to be.”

While Arteta admits the job of qualifying for the knockout stages is “technically done” he insists he and his players have a “duty” to try and win every game.

Smith Rowe may have travelled but his England colleague and fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka has stayed behind.

“He is fine,” Arteta told reporters during Monday’s pre-match media conference.

“With a few of them we decided to have another day recovery just 48 hours before and he has played a lot of minutes so it wasn’t worth exposing him.

“We have five or six big injuries so we are already a bit thin.

“I don’t know in another context what I would have done but I also want everyone together with the mentality to win. I want to see that in their tummies tomorrow.”

Among the next group of players progressing through Arsenal’s Hale End set-up, Reuell Walters, Ethan Nwaneri and Lino Sousa have all been taken to the Netherlands by Arteta.

Asked if it has become harder to blood youngsters while challenging for honours, the Spaniard replied: “It gets harder and harder. So the talent has to be really good.

“(They are) three big prospects. We want to keep developing players from our system.

“They deserve to be here. There are circumstances that have brought them here. We will try to give them the opportunity if we can in the right moment.”