Mikel Arteta smiled when asked about Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe’s development.
Smith Rowe, 19, has spent this season on loan at Championship side Huddersfield, where he has impressed under boss Danny Cowley.
Arteta has made an effort to blood youngsters this season, with Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson all representing the first team this campaign.
The Gunners manager is delighted with the progress Smith Rowe has made, and has hinted he will be among the Arsenal youngsters in contention to start each week next season.
“He’s a player with very specific qualities to play in those pockets in that position as an attacking midfielder,” Arteta told Sky Sports.
“I am excited to work with him. I have been talking with him and I have followed him during his spell on loan. I think he’s someone who can be pretty impressive.
“I’m pleased by what I’ve seen from him. He needed that exposure and he looks more mature now. I think he will be in a much better place when he comes back in pre-season.
“The young players want to be important, they want to take the important numbers, and I like that. It’s a good step. and they can be important in the future, but it’s up to them to decide that.”
Smith Rowe has been likened to Gunners star Mesut Ozil, who has found himself frozen out at Arsenal in recent months.
Arteta recently confirmed he is unsure whether the German will be at the club next season.
He said: “I don’t know. He is training now with the team, he has the same opportunities as everybody else but at the moment he’s not in both, in the squads.”
Smith Rowe has some way to go before he’ll fill the shoes of Ozil, but Arteta appears keen to build a spine comprised of hungry young players, while slowly phasing out the older heads.
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