Miguel Azeez was one of the biggest standout performers for the Arsenal U23s last season, despite only being 19 years of age. So this season he was sent out on loan to Portsmouth under Danny Cowley (who looked after Smith-Rowe’s development for a season) but only made his second appearance on the pitch last night for the last 19 minutes.
There were rumours from Football.London that Arsenal were unhappy with his playing time and were thinking about bringing Azeez back to the Emirates in Janary, but Cowley is adamant that the Gunners are happy with his progress on the South Coast.
He told The News: ‘I thought Miguel was bright against Cheltenham last night.
“He has worked really hard on his game behind the scenes, it’s so different to the football he knows. He’s been trying to build up physically, and build his intensity and combativeness.
‘He earned it last night. Reeco was tired and it was an opportunity for him to come in and impact the team.
‘There have been no issues with Arsenal. We speak to them regularly, we have very good dialogue with them and a very good relationship.
‘They know we are working really, really hard with Miguel and I think they believe this has been a brilliant loan for him to this point.
‘They trust me and know we are desperate for Miguel to be a success here, that’s why we have brought him in.
‘We are also respectful that he’s only a young boy – aged 19 – and has never seen this level of football before.
‘He’s just learning and working out how he can use his skill set and be effective at this level.’
If I remember rightly, Cowley was also told to be careful to get Smith-Rowe fit and to use him sparingly even if the player himself feels like he could play 90 minutes of every game.
I am sure that Azeez is in the right hands for his development, and as he gets to play more often, the experience of playing in front of very big crowds will stand him in good stead when he does come back to Arsenal.
I’m very hopeful that he will make the Gunners first team in the next few seasons…