Mikel Arteta believes that Emile Smith Rowe has improved Arsenal’s attacking threat and hailed the youngster’s improvement this season.
The 21-year-old could be back in contention for the visit of Southampton after returning to training on Tuesday, despite being ruled out of his side’s 2-1 defeat by Everton on Monday.
Smith Rowe’s form this season earned him a first senior England call-up for the World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino in November, on the back of scoring in his third successive top-flight game for the Gunners.
“He has improved the dynamic and the attacking threat of the team with his movement and the way he links and finds relationships on the pitch,” Arteta said of the midfielder.
“His threat on goal this season has been much, much better, with the capacity that he has to create chances, to open spaces for other team-mates, and he’s been a key player. Hopefully we can sustain that over time.”
Arsenal suffered their second successive defeat against Everton, having lost 3-2 to Manchester United in the previous match, despite heading to Old Trafford having won five of their previous six matches.
The result saw Arsenal slip to sixth, ahead of the game against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side who are just six points above the relegation zone, although Arteta expects a difficult challenge.
“Ralph and the team, they are a really dynamic, aggressive, forward-thinking team, really aggressive in the hard press, important team in transition because that’s how they concede,” the Gunners boss said.
“They score goals and they create a lot of chances as well so they are a very dangerous team.”