Rio Ferdinand believes Emile Smith Rowe has been the “instigator” of Arsenal’s resurgence in one area of their game.
Arsenal were looking over their shoulders towards the end of 2020 after some poor results. But they have turned things around recently.
On Tuesday, they beat Southampton 3-1 to exact revenge for their FA Cup defeat and make it six Premier League games unbeaten. That’s a stark contrast to their form before that run, when they went seven league games without a win.
Their revival kick-started with a 3-1 win over rivals Chelsea on Boxing Day. Since then, they have not tasted defeat in the league.
It means they are looking up again, and Ferdinand thinks one man has been key to their improvement.
Speaking on BT Sport after the game, Ferdinand noted how Smith Rowe has sparked their pressing game back into life.
“Great night for Arsenal,” he said. “I think the way they played, the foundations of that performance, was from the hard work, the press high up the pitch.
“I think the instigator of that was Smith Rowe. He’s been brought in, a young graduate from the academy, and that was foundation that set everything up.
“Arsenal, we always spoke about how they played great football, entertained us, scored some fabulous goals over the past few years.
“But that element that we’re talking about – the press from the front, to be able to really suffocate teams – is where they’ve probably let themselves down at times. Today they got it right.”
Ferdinand hopes Smith Rowe development continues
This was not the first time Ferdinand has spoken about Smith Rowe recently. Clearly a big fan of the England under-20 international, he said he hopes the arrival of Martin Odegaard does not limit his opportunities.
“That’s the only thing that worries me. If he comes in and takes someone like Emile Smith Rowe’s position, I’ll be devastated,” Ferdinand said earlier this week.
“He’s come in and done unreal things. The way he’s played, he’s been a breath of fresh air at Arsenal. I’m sure the fans if they were there would be going crazy about him.
“He brings assists, he brings a calmness to the way Arsenal play. He’s the type of player who could have played over a number of generations at Arsenal in the way he plays football.
“So I hope he doesn’t come in and kind of stunt his growth in the team because he’s been really good the last few weeks.”