Arsenal kicked off their pre-season with a game in Edinburgh against Hibernian, but it ended in a 2-1 defeat. After the match, manager Mikel Arteta was asked about a variety of topics including the future of Emile Smith-Rowe and Joe Willock.
Smith-Rowe started the game on the bench but came on in the second half to score the Gunners’ only goal of the match. Willock on the other hand did not play any part against the Hibs due to an injury.
Arteta was asked by The Athletic about whether Smith-Rowe would stay to which the manager responded:
“Without a question. Yes. He (Smith Rowe) will stay here. 100 per cent. No comment (when asked about Aston Villa’s bids).”
The focus then shifted to another young star and the Spaniard was asked about Willock. The manger added:
“Well, he (Willock) wasn’t involved today because he had a little groin issue. He trained yesterday really well but we didn’t want to risk him. Joe is part of our plans, he’s our player and in the time that he is here we will try to make the most out of him. He had a great experience on loan. He was, I think one of the most important players for their survival.”
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For the sake of the Gunners, it is important that both stay at the club for the foreseeable future. These two talents had an amazing finish to last season and if they can bring the same level of form in 2021/22, it will benefit Arteta.
Willock blossomed after heading to Newcastle United on loan where his goal scoring prowess came to the fore. In a record-breaking spell, the 21-year-old transformed the Magpies’ midfield and helped them steer clear of the relegation zone.
In the case of Smith-Rowe, it was his introduction into the playing eleven that proved to be the catalyst for the north Londoners improvement in the latter half of the campaign. The 20-year-old brought some much-needed energy to the midfield and created a good understanding with the rest of the attack.
With interest from Aston Villa, it is necessary to keep hold of him. As one of the best talents in the club, letting the attacking midfielder move to a Premier League rival would be disastrous.
Arteta has used Willock in the past but the Englishman could play in a position where he is likely to have a much bigger role. As we saw in Tyneside, the youngster’s ability to join in the attack is an invaluable asset and could lead to different formations being tried out to see where he will fit in.
Until Smith-Rowe signs a new deal and Willock fully commits to the Gunners, there is not going to be an end to the rumours. In the case of the former, it should only be a matter of time before the new contract is announced and that will hopefully put a stop to the interest of other clubs.
In Willock’s case, it will be interesting to see what the north Londoners will do in case there is going to be a huge bid coming in. The interest of Newcastle has already been established and if they made a big enough offer, the situation may change.
For now, Arteta will be hoping that these young stars can have a good pre-season and be ready and firing in time for the start of the Premier League. With both looking likely to stay, they will surely have a big role in turning around the fortunes of the club.
The Gunners are in a unique position where several of their best players are quite young. This bodes extremely well for the future as these youngsters will be able to contribute for a long time to come and hopefully lead the team back to its glory days.
As Arsenal move on to their second game of the Scotland tour against Rangers on Saturday, they will be happy knowing that they have two of the best young talents in the country with them. Areta has offered a reassuring update on Smith-Rowe and Willock and that would have made fans feel significantly better.
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