The 20-year-old’s performances have reduced the pressure on Mikel Arteta to buy a playmaker during the transfer window

Emile Smith Rowe might have been forgiven for thinking he was cursed. Arsenal were playing QPR in a friendly at their London Colney training ground, 11 days before the start of this season, and given the club had discouraged suitors for a loan spell it seemed time to stake his claim for a regular Premier League spot. He shone until, battling to win a header, he was caught in mid-air and came down nastily on a shoulder. The immediate worry was of a dislocation and that a career of rare promise would have to wait even longer to ignite.

Four months on there is evidence to suggest Smith Rowe is the missing piece in Mikel Arteta’s jigsaw. Arsenal have always thought the world of their 20-year-old academy product and there was relief when his injury proved less serious than feared. He returned to action in November and, since Arteta trusted him in the No 10 position when Chelsea visited on Boxing Day, has changed the dimension of a previously stodgy attack.

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