Why in 21/22 Emile Smith Rowe will be the Croydon Nasri and not the Croydon De Bruyne


When is a 10 not a 10?

As we approach the new 21/22 campaign, as Arsenal supporters, we are still yet to discover which player will arrive to take some of the creative burden from the young shoulders of Saka and Smith-Rowe. Will it be Maddison, will it be Odegaard, or Aouar, or even another left field suggestion such as Renato Sanches?

I won’t claim to know but the more I think about it, the more I understand why the Odegaard, or Maddison style creator might be favoured over the Lyon playmaker, who was, after all, Arteta’s top target last summer. So, what has changed since the summer of 2020, that has made Aouar, seemingly fall down the pecking order of targets this summer. Particularly, as he seems keen to come and the price tag not as scary as that cited for Maddison.

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A more traditional 10?.

I think the answer is the emergence and success of Emile Smith Rowe, whose attributes are similar to that of the Frenchman. I suspect that despite the new ‘10’ shirt for the Croydon De Bruyne, that Arteta, does not see his exciting playmaker as a traditional central 10, a la Ozil, at all. We saw hints of this last season when Odegaard was deployed centrally, ESR was moved to the left. Some fans saw it as him being shunted to the left when in fact it may well be the perfect role for the young Englishman. Arteta sees him as a wide playmaker, or inverted winger, as he does Saka, and this is why he is still pursuing his creative 10.

Oddly it was me re-reading Rio Ferdinand comparing Aouar to Samir Nasri last summer that triggered a thought that I had espoused last season.

“Decision making, timing of the pass, he has it all. He reminds me a little bit of Nasri, I think he is a player can go on and join one of the top clubs in Europe.”

Rio was drooling over the Lyon creator, but it is equally valid to compare Smith Rowe to the Samir Nasri, who shone for three seasons in North London. Nasri, perhaps like Rosicky before him, and ESR now saw himself as a 10 but Wenger had Fabregas in that position and the fulcrum of the team. Nasri was hugely effective, primarily on the left, as a wider play maker, using his quick feet, dribbling skills and short intricate passing in and around the penalty area.

This is from Nasri’s Wikipedia page:

“As a result of his versatility, Nasri can also function on the wing and spent the majority of his career at Arsenal occupying the role in the team’s 4–3–3 formation (4231) His close control with the ball, speed, dribbling, crossing and ability to use both feet suits the position well, which has resulted in former manager Arsène Wenger deploying Nasri in the role during the player’s three-year stay at the club.”

If we look today at Whoscored’s description of the two players style of play, the similarities are obvious:

Samir Nasri’s Style of Play

Likes to dribble

Likes to play short passes

Likes to do layoffs

Does not dive into tackles


Emile Smith Rowe’s Style of Play

Likes to dribble

Likes to do layoffs

Likes to play short passes

Does not dive into tackles

The dream combi

Neither player was or are or are known for wand like visionary passing, so perhaps like Wenger before him, Arteta was a passing 10 centrally, with two creative but different style playmakers either side of that player. So perhaps we are not looking at a new arrival to whom Smith Rowe might be an understudy to, but actually a player he can complement. This might be why Arteta was stressing that his young creator needed to add the goals in the Premier League that he had scored in the Europa and in the youth set up In that last stellar season of 2010/11, which sadly resulted in Nasri leaving North London for the blue of Manchester, the tricky Frenchman, scored 15 goals across all competitions, and 10 in the league, primarily from his nominally left-wing position. Is that what Arteta wants from the Croydon de Bruyne to actually be the Croydon Nasri.

“Very direct, always looked forward, had a lovely touch, very clever in possession. He was always full of energy and work rate and would come alive on the ball.”

The above quote could easily be about Nasri, but this one is actually Steve Morrow describing Smith Rowe as a youth team player. It is worth noting that in describing his star pupil, he did not mention passing.


Perhaps we already have our Aoaur

All of the above is not me saying I would not wish to see Houssem Aouar arrive before the end of the window, but more that him not being cited as the main target, as he was last summer, makes sense to me as Smith Rowe also has those Nasri like strengths that might see him play to the left of a more traditional central 10. Nasri in combination with Fabregas was an absolute joy to behold, hence the devastation and ensuing vitriol when the partnership was destroyed in the summer of 2011. However, could Smith Rowe with Maddison or Odegaard (and let’s not forget Saka) be potentially as fruitful?

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One Response to Why in 21/22 Emile Smith Rowe will be the Croydon Nasri and not the Croydon De Bruyne

  1. blave August 15, 2021 at 6:22 pm #

    Nasri took all kinds of flak after he left for City, but I for one loved his game and, yeah, there are definitely some similarities between him and ESR.

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