Say it ain’t so, Smith Rowe! Could Emile exit the Emirates…for Stamford Bridge?


With the summer transfer window set to close in a matter of days, rumours of our own Emile Smith Rowe leaving the club have run rampant. After having missed most of the 2022-23 campaign due to a persistent groin injury and subsequent surgery, I think I speak for most if not all of us when I say I expected to see more of him during last season’s run in, the preseason, and the early stages of this campaign. However, it starts to feel like he’s more likely to leave the club than to ever feature for it. It all comes down to midnight GMT on 1 September. Chelsea are lurking. So too are West Ham.

The outward portents do not augur well. Fit since last February, Smith Rowe has played a grand total of 105 minutes from 19 matches for which he’s been available. Of those, he’s been named to the squad 13 times without being called upon. Before his injury sidelined him, he was on an arc similar to Saka’s, and it seemed like we had two wingers, one on each side, who could rinse defenders five times before they hit the ground.

Instead of starring parallel to Saka on the left, Smith Rowe has fallen steadily down the pecking order, pipped first by Martinelli, who seems to have locked down the left wing as his own for the foreseeable future, then by the arrival of Trossard, who has been at his best either as Martinelli’s deputy or as a nominal #9 who drifts wide left. Were that all, we could still see a role for the Croydon de Bruyne. However, the arrival of Havertz—and Arteta’s apparent desire to rehabilitate him as an 8—suggests that there’s even less room for Smith Rowe to show what he’s capable of. He’s now third choice at his first-best position on the wing; he’s apparently second choice at his second-best position in midfield.

I’ll admit that I’m worried that, having committed as much as we did to Havertz, Arteta will be more determined to give him the chances, and Smith Rowe will have little voice or choice in the matter. Havertz has yet to impress despite being given ample opportunity (although it’s too early to make up one’s mind just yet). Smith Rowe is fit enough to have been named to the bench for all three of our Prem fixtures but has yet to play a single minute. I can accept the idea that he can’t yet supplant Martinelli or Trossard. The idea that Havertz is so superior to him, however, doesn’t feel as comfortable.

What’s less comfortable is the idea that we might sell Smith Rowe to Chelsea. Even if we could extract from them a fee competitive with what we paid for Havertz, can you imagine the outrage? Smith Rowe joined Hale End aged ten. He’s now 23, meaning he’s spent more than half his life with this club. He’d just broken through during the 2021-22 campaign and has fought his way back from injury and surgery. Selling him to Chelsea of all clubs would heap massive, mountainous pressure on Havertz, who is already struggling to justify his transfer fee and wages. He’d have to produce 20 goals and 10 assists. Long story short: it could get toxic.

From Smith Rowe’s point of view, things are muddled. He’s apparently surplus to needs and wants to play. For as much as we might want him to stay and fight for a spot, he has his own career to consider. However, would a move to Chelsea really address his concerns? They’ve already outspent numerous leagues—again, leagues—as Boehly has acquired all sorts of wingers and attacking midfielders. Could Smith Rowe fight his way through the countless others at Chelsea who play his preferred position(s)?

Speaking sentimentally but also strategically, I want Smith Rowe to stay. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for our Hale End boys. I would love to see a squad chock-a-block with them. Setting that softheadedness aside, I love what Smith Rowe brings. He reminds me of Aaron Ramsey at his best, maybe even capable of better, what with his close control. He’s direct, incisive, and—yes, it’s true even on short evidence—clinical. I daresay he could show Havertz a thing or two.

Please, Mikel. Give this kid a fighting chance. I can’t bear the thought of us buying Havertz from Chelsea only to see him flounder and then selling Smith Rowe to Chelsea only to see him thrive.

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9 thoughts on “Say it ain’t so, Smith Rowe! Could Emile exit the Emirates…for Stamford Bridge?

  1. Jax

    Re your last paragraph. If that were to happen, I think it would be the end for Arteta, at least with the fanbase.
    I’m reading elsewhere that the Chelsea bid has been thankfully rejected, which doesn’t mean that they won’t come back with something more enticing of course.

  2. jw1

    If ESR were to go elsewhere this window, it’d be on loan, to a team who could offer him starter’s minutes. When the cups start, and CL group stages begin, this is where ESR will see minutes.

    Comparing Smith Rowe with other players in the team is narrative-driven, providing a base for criticism of those players or the manager. I’d prefer to think of ESR’s place in the team, where he finds himself in Arteta’s order– not dissimilar to that of Martinelli post-surgery almost 2 years ago. The club has been most patient with reintroducing younger players, who’ve undergone major procedures, to heavy workloads.

    We’re almost a year removed from ESR’s groin surgery– and he had a solid U21 World Cup campaign this Summer. So I’d expect we’ll begin seeing him afforded starts in upcoming cup matches– a likely progression, on his path back to a competitive place in the team.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Very well-said. I’d be open to a loan to a club that will give him minutes and plays a style that allows him to develop. I’m still stung by the disastrous loan that sent Gnabry to West Brom under Pulis. I hope he gets enough time between the League Cup and UCL matches (assuming we get a draw favorable enough to rotate…).

      1. jw1

        ESR had successful loan spells at Huddersfield and RB Leipzig. Maybe Burnley would be a good fit to see him stay in the PL?

  3. reg

    Sounds like we are getting caught up in the silly season which we cannot influence.
    Until something happens we should keep calm imo.

  4. A Simple Truth

    simply put, the manner in which he’s dealt with ESR has been so egregious that it makes me wonder if he’s purposely trying to sabotage the kid’s career…normally I wouldn’t lean into such a conspiratorial sounding narrative, but we’ve seen just how vindictive MA can be when a player doesn’t toe the line or exposes him to criticism, whether it’s justified or not…let’s face it, ESR has been a bit part player, at best, ever since MA was forced into playing him…the fact that ESR, in many respects, saved his proverbial a** means less than nothing to this oft-times fragile man, as he appears to care infintely more about the backlash he faced from those who had called for him to get significantly more minutes long before his forced inclusion…hopefully MA will renege once again on an earlier promise, like with Tierney, and move on from ESR, so that he can get on with his career…that said, I would much rather that not happen in our own backyard, but I doubt he would get the desired fees from those outside the PL


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