From a shy young man who didn’t believe in himself to wearing the No. 10 shirt for Arsenal and playing for England, Emile Smith Rowe has come a long way in a short space of time.
He owes a lot to Gunners boss Mikel Arteta, who is always looking for creative ways to improve his players, whether that be on the training ground, on matchday or during a conversation in the cafeteria.
When asked if Arteta’s door is always open to his players, Smith Rowe said the Spanish manager is a particularly excellent communicator on the pitch, but he will always welcome players into his office.
“Maybe he communicates better on the pitch,” the England midfielder told Football365. “I can say from last season, all the players will say he communicates better on the pitch, always helping us improve.
“In terms of his door being open, anyone can speak to him when they want. He’s always open to speaking to the players and he wants to help us as much as possible. I don’t think the players feel they can’t go and speak to him. We can speak to him whenever we want. But maybe he would rather we spoke to him on the pitch.”
Smith Rowe has only just turned 22 years old, but he has spent time on loan in Germany and in the Championship, and he cited the second tier in England when explaining how he has developed into the player and person he is today.
“When he (Mikel Arteta) first came to the club, I went on loan to Huddersfield,” the England playmaker explained. “He brought me into the office and said he wants me to go and gain some experience with the first team at Huddersfield and come back as a man because he could see I was shy at the time and not confident in myself.
“When I came back after that I felt so much more confident in myself and he pulled me in again and said I’ve come a long way.
“In terms of qualities, he is very good with the young players. He guides us and speaks to us individually, helping us on the training pitch individually as well. For a young player that’s what you want.”
Arteta has had a difficult time as Arsenal boss, despite steering his side to an FA Cup win in his debut season as a professional manager.
The Spaniard turned to Smith Rowe during an injury crisis in 2020/21, and he never looked back.
The player’s amazing form saw him rewarded with a new contract, as well as the No. 10 shirt, and as an Arsenal fan who came through the youth academy, he is still pinching himself.
“It’s gone so quick,” Smith Rowe said. “It is surreal sometimes to look back at the stuff I’ve achieved. At the same time, the games come and go so quick so after scoring in one game you have to focus on the next game.
“This summer, when catching up with family and friends, talking about all the memories I have over the last season, that’s when I really understood what is happening. I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved so far.”
It has been an incredible journey for the 22-year-old so far, coming through the Hale End youth system alongside Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah to play for the first team together.
“It’s one thing doing it by yourself but coming up with your teammates and going straight to the first team with them means so much more,” he said. “Being on the pitch with them is hard to explain. After the games, we’ll talk about it and laugh about it.
“It’s something you dream about, being with your friends and going all the way through is a crazy feeling. Being Hale End is mad. You grow up seeing all the players on the wall like Jack Wilshere, Alex Iwobi. It’s just mad to see them and then do it yourself, it’s hard to believe sometimes.”
The Arsenal fans have taken to the young squad very well and have particularly endeared themselves to the young England duo Saka and Smith Rowe.
They are two favourites at the Emirates Stadium, and Smith Rowe cannot believe the supporters’ song about himself and Saka has become a popular chant on matchday.
“It’s a special feeling. You grow up dreaming of playing for Arsenal but you don’t think about the fans making a song for you.
“When we first heard it was a bit wow, we didn’t know if it would go viral, it was just funny. We started hearing it everywhere and the lads started playing it in the changing room. Who would have thought? It’s a great feeling for both of us, coming through the academy and playing for the first team.”
The former Huddersfield loanee is a young player in a young squad, but it can be argued that he can be seen as a dressing room leader due to his love for the club.
As a Hale Ender, we asked if he feels that he has a responsibility to let new signings know what it means to play for Arsenal, and of course, to help them settle in at the club.
“Maybe. I wouldn’t try and put that into them,” he told Football365. “All the players that come to Arsenal should already know what it means to play for Arsenal. The history of the club, the players who have been here before.
“Obviously, I will always try to help everyone when they first come, I will try to be as welcoming as possible and we are a family at the end of the day. We want to enjoy our time with each other, we are friends off the pitch, but at the end of the day we’ve got a job to do.”
When Portuguese left-back Nuno Tavares – who has recently joined Marseille on a season-long loan – signed for the Gunners, a clip of him referring to Smith Rowe as “The Smith” went viral, and the Englishman revealed that the nickname eventually caught on last term.
“I saw it on social media first when it came out,” he said. “I didn’t have many conversations with him when he first joined; as we got to know each other we started to joke about it and we always have jokes with each other. That’s what he calls me (The Smith). We have our little celebrations with each other so it’s fun.”
As mentioned prior, it is a young squad. Arsenal had the youngest team in the Premier League last term and this summer have brought in Fabio Vieira (22) and Marquinhos (19).
During Amazon’s All or Nothing: Arsenal, there is a large emphasis on the age of the squad, and Smith Rowe was asked how he, and the squad as a whole, deal with the pressure of playing for such a big club at their age.
“For me, I try not to think about the pressure,” the 22-year-old explained. “We’ve got a young team, a young manager, but we all just thrive off it, to be honest.
“Last season was a good season. Obviously, we had a bad ending, but for us, we are always looking forward and he (Arteta) gives us so much confidence.
“It’s good for us to keep working hard and keep pushing each other. I’m a young player so I have all of these other players around me helping all the time.”
To be filmed throughout the whole season is a bizarre situation to be in as a professional footballer and Smith Rowe expects to come across as a reserved individual in the documentary.
“I’d probably say yeah,” Smith Rowe said when asked if expects to come across as a shy person in the Amazon show. “Growing up I was quite a shy person.
“To be honest I haven’t seen any of the documentary yet so I probably do come across quite shy. I feel like I have come a long way since then (first meeting Arteta).”
You can watch All or Nothing: Arsenal on Amazon Prime Video.
Episodes 1-3 are released on Thursday, August 4.
Episodes 4-6 – Thursday, August 11.
Episodes 7-8 – Thursday, August 18.
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