Sometimes in top level sport you need luck that you can’t control, fortune determined by destiny. You sensed that the Gunner Emile Smith Rowe needed these Under 21 European Championships?
An inconvenience for many clubs and players, our midfielder might just one day look back at the last four weeks as a crucial period in his career.
He was the only member of Lee Carsley’s squad where the criteria for selection was ignored, the only Englishman to be capped by the seniors but still included, and ESR scored in both of England’s opening two Group games.
Having been capped by Southgate, Arteta probably had enough influence to have stopped the FA from calling up his 22-year-old.
Yet both his senior managers for club and country didn’t stand in his way from playing in Georgia and Romania, in fact they encouraged it.
It’s a reflection of how much his career has stalled in the past year, as this never would have never been considered last summer.
Let’s stress, Smith Rowe wasn’t participating to prove his talent to anyone. He’s long since showcased that.
This was about experiencing some competitive football after admitting that since surgery, he’s struggled to regain the fitness to compete with the standards that his Arsenal peers were displaying in training.
It’s a relief that was self-admission because, given how much Arteta trusted him before his injury, it was a worry when the Spaniard was subbing on Vieira, Nelson and Nketiah before Smith Rowe.
Given our manager’s history of washing the hands of personnel the moment they don’t suit his ethos, the concern was that; had the boss seen something in the player’s recovery that made him feel the player had lost his powers?
Thankfully it now seems that Arteta simply didn’t think it was fair after so long on the sidelines to throw the youngster into the deep end of a title race.
The plan was to give Smith Rowe a full preseason to get back into condition and be part of the set up next season. Essentially that’s how this tournament was viewed by the Gunners, an early preseason for their star.
A chance to play a few games under jeopardy to see how he handled the pressure of being one of most experienced members of the team.
To return to North London with a winner’s medal is a cherry on the cake.
Don’t underestimate how big a moment lifting this trophy could be in Smith Rowe’s life, adding this honour to the World Cup he won with the Under 17’s.
Other nations use these underage competitions as a crucial part of a player’s development.
Spain and Germany had teenagers who grew up together winning honours, ultimately leading to those generations lifting the World Cup. The idea being that by including anyone who meets the specification, no matter their status, by the time they played in Euros and World Cups, they would have knowledge of tournament football to help them.
Compared to our 1, Spain had 4 players in their squad who have been called up to the seniors before.
Now we have won this trophy for the first time since 1984, no doubt the Football Association will claim they take it more seriously than they did in reality.
Such was the lack of hype in the UK, only when we got to the Final did any TV station bother to bid for the rights and that was done at the 11th hour by channel 4.
It’s believed members of the newly crowned European Champions were genuinely offended by the lack of interest.
So, while those in power at Saint George’s Park will celebrate the accolade, they can’t with a straight face claim they have any policy where those successful this weekend now have a pathway to Germany.
It can only help Arsenal.
As predicted, the pressure of a title race was a step too far for one of the youngest squads in the division.
We already didn’t have enough leaders before we allowed Xhaka to leave.
So, it can’t hurt to have another player with knowledge of how to win things, how to close out a final and protect a lead, the arts of game management.
Because those lists aren’t long at the Emirates compared to the Etihad.
After all, isn’t that the point of these underage competitions, for youngsters to learn skills that help them in their futures?
Saturday was perfect for that.
Yes, England showed skill and technique as they have in their previous 5 fixtures.
Yet the more Spain dominated possession in the second half, the more Lee Carsley made a deliberate decision to protect our narrow advantage, and they held on to go through the whole tournament without conceding a single goal.
While Smith Rowe was subbed by the time everyone lost their heads, he was still part of a display where he had to shut out the game and display some dark arts.
There’s an irony that a player on the fringes as the Gunners came close to a first Prem in 19 years, is the one who ends up with a trophy.
Congratulations Emile Smith Rowe
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