When a football club produces a special talent in their academy and they break into the first team, it’s always a proud moment for fans.
When Manchester United’s ‘class of 92’ came through together, there was excitement about what a group of academy lads could achieve together in the men’s game. Something similar is happening at Chelsea too, with a large group of academy graduates making up a portion of the first-team squad these days.
Over in north London, the Gunners have managed to produce two outstanding talents themselves and are bringing them to the fore together now.
Bukayo Saka broke into the side last season under Unai Emery but this season he has become a mainstay in the starting lineup and is arguably Arsenal’s best player right now. Watching him perform is nothing new at this point, but his new partner in crime has burst onto the scene in a big way.
With Mesut Ozil out of the squad and now a Fenerbahce player, Arteta has opted to employ youth into his teams and it has dragged him out of a rut. The biggest change has been the arrival of Emile Smith Rowe as a starter.
‘Croydon De Bruyne’ is a 20-year-old attacking midfielder, who has described both Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes as players he looks up to. His introduction into the team has given everyone at the club a boost.
Fans are happy again, with Arsenal winning five of their last six games, but also the players on the pitch seem happier.
Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are scoring goals again, Saka is thriving on the right wing, the midfielders have options to pass the ball too and Arteta’s side look more like the one that won the FA Cup in August.
The youngsters impact has been immeasurable. His ability to receive the ball on the half-turn, in tight spaces, has allowed him to create more chances than anyone else in the league not named Bruno Fernandes since his debut.
He is capable of beating players with the ball at his feet as he showed in his assist for Saka’s goal against Newcastle in the league, he has a tidy finish on him as he showed against Newcastle in the cup and he’s more than willing to play with minimal touches.
While Ozil didn’t need his place in the squad replacing due to the fact he was left off the squad lists back in October, his role as creator in chief for the team has finally been replaced.
Arsenal have been linked with a move for Norwich’s Emi Buendia, but any notion that the deal was a priority has now been put on the back burner. Smith Rowe has arrived and he’s here to stay.