Before Christmas, times looked desperate for the Gunners, who sat just four points off the relegation zone and had no league wins in two months. However, a change was made against rivals Chelsea on Boxing day which turned the club’s fortunes around, and that was the decision to trust the youth players.
Mikel Arteta gave Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe their first league starts of the season alongside Bukayo Saka, who at times has carried the club on his shoulders through his standout performances, and this was a decision that paid off, with the Gunners winning the game 3-1.
This result sparked a turn in fortunes for the North Londeners, who won their following two games away to Brighton and West Brom, and while Mikel Arteta deserves a lot of praise for turning things around, with the Spaniard being strongly encouraged to keep using the youngsters according to Arsenal Central sources, a lot of credit should also go to Arsenal’s young attacking trio. Here’s how each of them have helped contribute to the Gunners’ up turn in form.
Emile Smith Rowe
Whilst some might say Smith Rowe is the least talented of the trio, despite having ability in abundance, his addition to the side is arguably the most important. The 20 year-old plays in a position that Arsenal have craved this season, and having an attacking midfielder to link up play has had a huge effect on the team.
In just under the three months prior to the Chelsea game, Arsenal had only scored two goals from open play, however since bringing Smith Rowe into the team, they’ve scored six, with the Englishman grabbing two assists in those matches.
Whilst he isn’t the only reason for this, if you were able to watch all three matches the youngster featured in, you would see he was a crucial part to this improvement, bringing excellent positioning, tactical awareness and ability on the ball to create triangles throughout the midfield that have been a rarity this season.
After getting injured in training last season, the return of Gabriel Martinelli to the Arsenal first team has been greatly anticipated amongst fans, and it’s safe to say it hasn’t disappointed.
Before making his return, the senior team were lacking in confidence and energy, however when Martinelli made his return against Manchester City, there was a burst of determination and aggression that hadn’t been seen in months.
His energy has rubbed off on his fellow team mates too, with everyone suddenly pressing and playing with a greater intensity, which is an incredible influence for someone who is still a teenager to have on a team.
The 19 year-old has been an ever present player for Arsenal this season, and when times have been dark, the versatile winger has been a shining light for the Gunners.
Playing everywhere from left wing to right back, Bukayo Saka has been the player his team mates have looked towards to make a difference this season, with only Alexandre Lacazette contributing to more goals in the league than the youngster.
Whether it is making incisive runs and passes to split defences, or simply providing moments of magic to get a goal out of nowhere, like we saw against Chelsea, the teenager has been crucial to the team this term, and somehow manages to improve after every game he plays.
This trio of youngsters are special, and there’s little doubt that they will be crucial to this Arsenal team for years to come. Consisting of a perfect combination of quality, passion and potential, these are three young players the club cannot afford to lose, and tying Saka and Martinelli down to long term contracts in the summer was a very important move by the club.
Once a contract is sorted for another top prospect in Folarin Balogun, who only has six months remaining on his current deal, the next contract on the table has to be for Emile Smith Rowe.
*all stats provided by Transfermarkt.