Don’t you think Smith-Rowe is too good to be on the Arsenal bench?

Why are we benching an on-form Smith Rowe?

Smith-Rowe, Saka, Odegard and Martinelli. All players are on fine form, yet one will have to spend at least 60 minutes on the bench in this Arsenal team, or do they?

Emile Smith Rowe is having the season of his career, just over a year on from his surprise start in the 3-1 win against Chelsea, the 21-year-old is currently on eight goals in the Premier league and has been a key player in the turn of our form.

Yet he has been warming the bench in last six Prem matches, he has notably come on to score in half of those games, yet don’t you think ESR is a bit too good to be used as a substitute?

A now England international and having committed his long-term future to the club, Arteta is struggling to find a way to play him over an exciting (and finally fit) Gabriel Martinelli on the left who has since scored four and assisted two.

I also believe that Ødegaard is now integral in the number 10 role and key to our attacking press, so he won’t be replaced by our top scorer (ESR) either.

However, you must find a way to get him in the starting 11 in my opinion.

It’s clear that we are in the market for a young striker, potentially in this January window with Alexander Isak and Dusan Vlahovic very tempting options but, I believe that Martinelli could easily fill that position.

He is fast, movement is great, very skilful and a natural finisher. The finish against West Ham was almost trademark Thierry Henry, a player who similarly also started as a left winger and proved to be Arsenal’s greatest striker.

Martinelli’s goal against the Hammers...

I am not saying Martinelli will be the next Thierry, but I would love to see the Brazilian play as our front man especially against teams in the lower half of the league who will give us more time on the ball and allow us to play more.

The worry would be the lack of experience, at 30 Lacazette is our stand in captain after the Auba controversy and he is important in the team, he fights for every decision and links up play. He is also much more physical than Martinelli too.

So, against the top teams I can understand the decision for ESR to come on in the 60th minute and start Laca. But I still cannot shake the fact that I want him to play the full game.

It could be a game management decision, we know that ESR suffered with awful shin splints at the start of his career and so the rest at this point of the season might be part of that, but I love watching him play.

It’s not a bad problem to face, for years we were lacking in attacking options off the bench so to have a ESR or Pepe on the side-line is a luxury in comparison, but I think it would be very interesting to see all the young guns playing together with their energy and flair.

Let me know what you think?

Until next time Gooners.


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  1. Yes, he is to good to be on the bench! But there are other players on form which is very difficult to fit in them all

    1. For me it is clear that Odegaard shoudl be benched. ESR is superior in almost every way. Odegaard is too slow, ineffective when pressing, rarely gets a ball back, and overall offers very little when we don’t have the ball.

      1. couldnt agree more with this. I would say this is another typical example of a “he is my signing” from Arteta. How can Odegard be getting more time than smith rowe with the season he is having and his obvious chemistry with saka. Odegard should be playing second fiddle to smith rowe.

  2. I don’t like the idea of shoehorning Martinelli into the CF position. Like Auba, he’s so much more effective coming in from wide positions and finding pockets of space outside of the congested central areas. Solo CFs need a combination of strength, a magnificent first touch, the technique to wriggle out of congested spaces and a decent range of passing/vision. Laca has the most of those traits compared to any other player we have, Martinelli’s abilities lie elsewhere imo.

    So yes, ESR is way too good for the bench but he’ll be back in the first XI very soon. He just needs to be a bit patient and to keep performing the way he does when he’s on.

    1. Agreed. Martinelli is more dangerous when cutting inside from the LW position like Aubameyang and Sanchez

      Smith-Rowe has the physicality to play as a false nine and he played decently there against Villareal, so we’d better try him again for that role if all our CFs are unavailable

      Odegaard can’t always play as a CAM, because those diagonal passing tactics and runs will eventually be cracked by other managers if they’re overused. We could make the oppositions confused, by fielding Smith-Rowe as the CAM from time to time

    2. It’s all about competition, that’s what gives players the edge and pushes them forward. Without it we’ll never hit the heights we should be hitting. It encourages consistency and higher performance knowing there’s players chomping at the bit.

      Long may it continue, Tierney has been superb since getting back in the team. Laca has stepped up Odegaard too its a massive benefit to have that competition for places

  3. We should start going with one def midfield player so we can have Ode ang Smith rowe as two no 8s. Risky but can try it against smaller sides.

    1. Bad idea. The defence becomes very vulnerable. Rotation is better. Odegaard’s style is easily readable. So against certain opposition, it’s a good idea to rotate

  4. There are a number of options to get the Fab 4 all in the team. One would be to play 433/451 with odegaard and ESR flanking Partey. Meaning Xhaka is the fall guy.

    The other is to use ESR as a false 9, meaning Laca would be the fall guy. I believe ESR could easily play that role, let’s face it Laca is not an out and out striker anyway, whilst Xhaka is not really a conventional centre midfielder. ESR would make a good box to box midfielder, he is great running with or without the ball, sometimes he reminds me of Ramsey when he was at the top of his game.

    1. I like the Ramsey comparison but I do think Aaron had outstanding stamina and was a lot stronger physically than he looked, and so was a lot more suited to that role than ESR – I think ESR could do a decent job in that role, though, but it wouldn’t be so natural as he likes to drift around, and box to box needs a bit more positional discipline (that being ramses downfall in the end imo)

  5. Arsenal has only 12 genuine starters right now.
    Ramsale Tomiyasu Gabriel White Tierney/Tavares Partey Xhaka Odegaard Saka Martinelli ESR. With Partey and gabriel at the Afcons thet reduces to 10. So yes we could start Martinelli Saka or ESR as false 9’s.
    Everyone else in the squad is either marginal or not good enough. Laca, Auba and Pepe are underachieving. Lokonga is still learning. Holding and Leno are ok at a pinch. Mari Cedric Chambers Torreira Niles Nketia Elneny need to be replaced in the summer if not sooner. We can’t afford any more injuries to key players.
    Have a feeling there will be at least 2 Jan signings.

    1. Pepe Auba Elneny and partey at the AFCON as garbriel is Brazilian ,and apart from partey the other 3 have not had a look in recently .
      So we still have our starting 10 from the last 4-5 matches .

    2. Laca is underachieving in the way he always has, which is in his goalscoring, but he’s still contributing a lot and is still crucial to the team atm. Not a player I worry about when he’s listed on the team sheet, unlike Auba.

  6. 60 mins on the bench? Since when does MA make subs that early 🤣 More like 75 mins.

    I think Ode could play as a deep lying midfielder next to Partey making the occasional run into the box. He would have a great opportunity to use his full range of passing. A possible option but won’t happen cz Xhaka will never be dropped.

    1. PJ
      HAPPY NEW YEAR One and all
      I would say that pulling MO back as a deep line midfielder would be detrimental to the team and himself
      It reminds me a bit of when we had santi and ozil and santi dropped back. His technical ability helped him play there but thought we wasted him playing there and much preferred when he played further up top..
      Onwards and upwards

  7. Martinelli isn’t a centre forward in this formation.

    It’s good that one player sits on the bench, it gives you an option to change things.

    Is Jota too good to be on the bench for Liverpool? Probably but when Mane, Salah and Firmino are fit he is usually on the bench.

    You have to have at least one trump card to play when it goes wrong.

    Teams are about balance. You can’t just play all the best players.

    ESR has played plenty of games. They all have.

  8. I think Emile should get a game at the central midfield. We’re short there anyway. The position would suit his work rate and involvement, he could be the goal scoring replacement to Ramsey.

  9. I think we should start ode and smith coz odegard can be the link between attack and defence and partey sits back just like xhaka does and bench xhaka so when we need to tighten our defence he comes on.
    And i support martinelli going in for laca creating space for rowe.

    1. Xhaka is not the person you go to when you need to defend. Penalties and cards follow him around he is bad luck.

  10. So glad this has come up, I have been wondering about this.

    I am amazed that some people on here don’t think Martinelli can play as CF, especially given, IMO, that he is following in the footsteps of the King himself, TH. He can play as a false 9, still getting involved in the build up, bringing the ball in as he usually does. With our attacking players we can have a fluid interchangeable attack. If ESR sits on the bench he will eventually want to leave, besides he is far too good for that.

  11. If we were to play that 442 formation again, martinelli could do really well up front alongside laca, but he doesn’t have the physicality to play as a lone forward atm. He’s about as effective as auba in that role. I think he should stick to the wings right now where he’s definitely effective – he may be able to transition to CF in the future, but not yet imo

  12. Have you looked at the quality of players that Liverpool and Manchester city has on their bench? Every top team has at least two outstanding players for each position on the field of play. Arsenal is not yet in that position and folks are complaining about who is playing or not. Remember, only eleven players can take the field at once,and subs are used for tactical reasons and to replace tiring or injured players. By creating a culture of competitiveness amongst the players, the team’s performance level will rise. Every player will have to cherish their opportunities with consistent performances and that’s what Martinelli has done when Smith-Rowe got injured. That’s a good sign of a team heading in the right direction. Smith-Rowe is fine and will surely get much more game time.

    1. Exactly Wayne, I don’t know why it’s Arsenal fans complaining about these stuff.
      It’ll never end it seems, Arsenal went for Ben White, “Oh it is the end of Saliba”.. “We are wasting money, do we even need Ben”.. “We have a good young defender already, why do we need another good ball playing defender? ”.

      Mid season we are seeing the same thing. What is it with us fans complaining about it?
      Once upon a team, Wenger had an amazing squad with quality all over the pitch and the bench.
      Everyone stepped up when they came in, Henry, Bergkamp, and Viera led but others did great when they were called upon.
      These days we complain when our favorite is on the bench while someone is also performing too good to get dropped.
      Go on social media and see the Pepe fanboys attack and views on why Saka should’nt be playing more than Pepe.

  13. I am concerned that ESR is not exactly Arteta’s ideal type of mid fielder and that he will be overlooked in favour of Odegaard and Xhaka, heaven forbid, but trying to remain positive he will remain at Arsenal as an important future component of a successful team. I’m sure if Arteta is too stupid to utilise Smith Rowe’s talents then good luck to the brighter, smarter managers who know a good player when they see one.

  14. Only Arsenal fans will complain about depth, and the moment there’s good competition and performances from everyone, they want everyone on the pitch at once.
    In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t 2013-2015 that Wenger would fit all our midfielders on the pitch.
    The game is played at an higher intensity now and you have to make sure you have great players who can step in always.
    Mahrez is to good to sit on the bench and rotate, no?
    Foden is too good to be on the bench and rotate no?

    Why is it we complain about it when it’s Arsenal?
    Have we gotten so used to mediocrity that we don’t know good things anymore?
    Terta said yesterday that this is exactly what he’s always wanted, players pushing each other to be better.
    Today ESR will play, he’s already motivated to be very good today.
    The next game, Ødegaard is already motivated before kick off to make sure ESR doesn’t take his place.
    Next year when there’s European football, everybody will get enough game time.

  15. While I agree that ESR needs game time, we must also be careful not to make him like Wilshire. Caution is the word

  16. Quoted from yesterday’s Mirror (online):

    Smith Rowe, 21, was the Gunners’ standout player during much of the first half of the season and he is the club’s top scorer this season with nine goals in 21 games.
    However, the England international has been benched for Arsenal’s last four Premier League games after suffering a minor muscle strain in December.
    Arteta was quizzed about Smith Rowe’s lack of minutes while speaking ahead of Sunday’s trip to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round and admitted the youngster has been short of full fitness.
    “Well the main reason (behind) that was because he wasn’t completely fit to play,” Arteta said of Smith Rowe. He’s been carrying an issue, and that hasn’t allowed him to train regularly, to play regularly, and that was the main reason. Because in his performances, and what he did before that international break – there is no question that he was one of our more important and consistent players.”

  17. He is good but not too good, we need very good players on the bench as well, besides how many Smith Rowe do we av on d bench

  18. ESR will start/play games for Arsenal whenever Mikel Arteta deems it appropriate to start him or play as substitute.

    ESR has proved he has not only come good for the Gunners this season, but he has also come top for Arsenal in the EPL scoring 8 times so far in the campaign. Should he continues to regularly play for the Gunners this season, he could double the 8 goals or score more than doubling it before the season ends.

    To start/play ESR in matches for Arsene is in the hand of Arteta? But I encourage MA find a space for him in his EPLstarting Xi teams to regularly starti him since he poaches goals regularly for Arsenal.

  19. I agree with those saying ESR can and should play box to box midfield. I also want to see him tried there he I believe he will be a massive improvement on Xhaka/ElNeny/Lokonga.

  20. What I think about this article is that the decision on ESR is best left in the hands of the professional manager who has managed our team into fourth place and won two trophies in his first year.

    And thankfully , IT WILL BE LEFT IN MA’s HANDS, not we fans hands! Reality !

      1. You don’t know KEN? I rather think you do, so tell me, if you will!


        You will have noticed I did not call them BOTH honours but we did, albeit only technically, win TWO trophies or silverware. Unless you know of something else that MA has won that I do not know about!

  21. The reason ESR hasn’t been playing is explained in the above post at 10.51am, which nobody seems to have read. He hasn’t been completely fit and has had a minor injury.

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