Martin Keown explains why Mikel Arteta is picking Emile Smith Rowe over Mesut Ozil

Emile Smith Rowe gave another excellent performance in Arsenal's win over West Brom
Emile Smith Rowe gave another excellent performance in Arsenal’s win over West Brom (Picture: Getty)

Martin Keown believes Emile Smith Rowe’s ‘youthful exuberance’ represents the main reason Mikel Arteta is picking the youngster instead of Mesut Ozil.

Arsenal had gone seven games without a win and slipped dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to Arteta’s decision to give the 20-year-old his first Premier League start in the Boxing Day win over Chelsea that got the Gunners back on track.

Arteta’s side subsequently picked up another morale-boosting win at Brighton in midweek and made it three wins on the bounce by thrashing hapless West Brom 4-0 at the Hawthorn’s on Saturday night.

As he was the Amex on Tuesday, Smith Rowe was to the fore again, operating in the No.10 role Ozil had made his own prior to his exile, which now looks almost certain to culminate in his departure at the end of the season.

Smith Rowe, along with fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka, has done as much as any other player to dig Arsenal out of a perilous position and Keown was delighted to see the pair dovetailing superbly for the second goal of the evening.

He told BT Sport: ‘It was like a throwback to the Pires years, the Henry movement.They would have been brought up on this coming through the academy.

‘That’s what’s special about it. Smith Rowe coming in, giving and going, keeping his run on and Saka knows because he’s played with him in the youth team he’ll find him.

‘And he does, he just rolls it into him. It’s really good movement, I’ve been immensely impressed with Smith Rowe since he’s come into the team, everyone though that was the sort of role Mesut Ozil was going to fulfil.

‘It shows the manager wants that type of player but he wants youth and exuberance and he’s certainly getting it with these two.’

Fellow BT sport pundit and former Albion midfielder Gareth Barry, meanwhile, added: ‘He’s given the something different. It’s such a hard position to play there, No.10 in the hole. For someone so young he looks like he’s been playing there a long time.

‘Another thing I’ve picked up watching him tonight his work rate off the ball he works very hard. Mikel Arteta has spoken about that and it’s important for a top team all the players need to be working hard off the ball too.’

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