SOCCER

‘We have got a real player on our hands’ Boothroyd hails ‘outstanding’ Smith Rowe after handing Arsenal star England call


The Gunners youngster has been included in the England Under-21s squad for this month’s Uefa U21 Euro finals group stage

Arsenal star Emile Smith Rowe’s dramatic rise to prominence this season is just the beginning, according to England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd.

The 20-year-old has become an integral part of Gunners boss Mikel Arteta’s side this season and has been one of the key reasons behind Arsenal’s upturn in form since Christmas.

After making his first Premier League appearance of the season against Chelsea on Boxing Day, Smith Rowe has gone on to start 11 of Arsenal’s last 13 games in the league. He has contributed four assists during that time and on Sunday he was hugely influential again as the Gunners came from behind to beat Spurs 2-1 in the north London derby.

What’s been said?

His excellent form has now seen him rewarded with a first call up for the England Under-21s, with Boothroyd naming him alongside Arsenal team-mate Eddie Nketiah in the squad for next week’s Uefa U21 Euro finals group stage, which runs from March 24 to March 31.

And Boothroyd has explained his reasons for turning to Smith Rowe, praising the Gunners’ academy product for his rapid progress and suggesting that only injuries can now prevent him going on to achieve great things for club and country.

“He has been outstanding for his club,” said the England Under-21s boss.

Boothroyd highlighted Smith Rowe’s vision when discussing what had impressed him most about the Arsenal youngster this season, but was also keen to point out willingness to put his manager’s plans into practise.

“Honesty is the word that jumps out to me,” the coach said. “We can talk about all the technical qualities that he’s got, his willingness to work for the team. But he is so honest in what he does.

“He is desperate to please. You can see the little techniques in his game, particularly without the ball, people wouldn’t really associate him without the ball, but his willingness to work, to get into position, to check his shoulders, to make sure he is doing what the coach wants him to do.

“I think probably the key thing for him, what I like so much about him, is his football brain.

“He is one of those players who sees things happening before they actually occur. Sees a pass, runs into a space where he thinks the ball is going to be. We are only seeing the start of him.

“If he can stay fit we have got a real player on our hands there.

“When I spoke to Keith Downing about him, who he was with with the U19s and through other teams in the pathway, all that comes out is what a good character he is, and that’s very important for us as a group as well.”

Who will England’s U21s face in the group stages?

Boothroyd’s men have been drawn in Group D for the European Championship, which will be staged behind closed doors in Slovenia.

The Three Lions will be vying for a spot in the knockout stages alongside Portugal, Croatia and Switzerland, but have failed to make it beyond the group in three of their last eight appearances in the tournament.

“History tells us that this competition is about as competitive as it gets and we know we will have to be at our best,” Boothroyd said. 

“Because we are in the middle of the domestic season, everyone will have to hit the ground running as soon as they come together but we are ready for the challenge. We can’t wait to get started.”

Further reading 

Hudson-Odoi and Greenwood named in England squad for U21 European Championships

England World Cup 2022 qualifying: All you need to know

Lacazette: I was lucky to win a penalty against Spurs


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