Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka has backed Emile Smith Rowe to continue his fine form after the youngster helped the FA Cup holders beat Newcastle 2-0 after extra-time on Saturday.
The 20-year-old was introduced just before the hour mark at the Emirates. He grabbed the opener in the 109th minute with a smart finish into the bottom corner.
Smith Rowe was then shown a red card at the end of normal time. However, referee Chris Kavanagh was told by VAR to review the decision. After the pitchside monitor was used, the challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed only worthy of a yellow card.
While Mikel Arteta also turned to other key players on the bench, it was the academy graduate who grabbed the headlines. He had starred in the Gunners’ previous three games and team-mate Xhaka was full of praise.
“He’s a lovely guy, a very good guy who wants to improve, he listens to us experienced players a lot and he’s so important to us,” he told Arsenal Media.
“You can see how many balls he recovers, how many key balls he plays at the front and for the front guys as well he’s so important.
“He has to keep going like this, to improve day-by-day but he has a good mentality and that’s very important as well.”
Smith Rowe helps turns the tide
A poor first half saw the teams head to the changing rooms locked at 0-0. Arteta was not happy and Smith Rowe was introduced in the 56th minute. Xhaka and Bukayo Saka soon joined him but it was still goalless at full time.
Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Willian were the players to make way for the trio. The latter put on another uninspired display and is uunder pressure to improve his game.
Since the Brazilian completed a free transfer from Chelsea in the summer, he has registered only three assists. They have come from 18 appearances in four different competitions but Arteta has backed the South American.
“I think he was improving and improving. The other day he came on really well against West Brom,” said the Spaniard.
“He’s been out as well because he was ill so he’s missed almost two weeks of training and football and it was the first time that he started the game.
“He had some good moments and he had some other moments where he needed more help sometimes and some decisions weren’t the best, but we’re going keep trying with him.”
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