England head coach Gareth Southgate has hinted that Arsenal winger Emile Smith Rowe was in intention to receive a World Cup call-up prior to his surgery in September.
Smith Rowe has been forced to watch his teammates take the Premier League season by storm in the stands after having surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his groin. The Hale End academy product has only made four appearances all season after enjoying an eye-catching campaign last term with 11 goals in 37 appearances.
The 22-year-old is due to return to full training next month ahead of the return of domestic football on Boxing Day. However, following Thursday’s England World Cup squad announcement, there is expected to be a feeling of what could have been inside Smith Rowe’s mind.
Arsenal trio Bukayo Saka, Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale will all travel to Qatar with a chance to represent the Three Lions, but there could have been another Gunner in Southgate’s squad. Speaking in his post-squad announcement press conference, the England boss discussed how it could have been a different squad if it wasn’t due to injuries.
“We’ve looked at one or two others, there was a period where Emile Smith-Rowe had a go and was playing really well.
“We’ve sadly lost him (to injury). Obviously, we’ve lost Reece (James), but Reece was with us in the Euros. And Ben (Chilwell).”
Southgate’s words mean very little to the Arsenal star right now. His focus will be on recovering to make himself available for Mikel Arteta ahead of the hectic 2023 schedule. However, having his name dropped in the England World Cup squad announcement just proves how close he was to breaking into the squad and will only be used as motivation going forward.
When fit and flowing, Smith Rowe will provide healthy competition to Saka and Gabriel Martinelli to take the Gunners’ attack to the next level. Arteta now has a month to slowly transition him back into his squad during their mid-season Dubai break, with the hope of him discovering his previous form.
As reported by football.london previously, the Gunners remain keen to add another winger and have repeatedly been linked with Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhaylo Mudryk. However, in a perfect world for Smith Rowe and Arteta, he will return to full fitness, rediscover his 2021/22 form and re-insert his name back into Southgate’s plans for Euro 2024.
Reports have previously suggested that the Gunners would have to pay in excess of the £60 million they refused to pay for Mudryk in the summer. Getting Smith Rowe back to full fitness could save Edu millions and could be like a new signing at the Emirates.