Graeme Souness has paid Arsenal’s young midfielder Emile Smith Rowe the richest of compliments by explaining how his game compares to a Manchester United legend.
The creative midfielder has forged himself into a regular starter under Mikel Arteta since Christmas. He has emerged as one of the Gunners biggest pluses of an inconsistent season, having gone from strength to strength during 2021. Smith Rowe now has two goals and seven assists in 30 appearances this season.
Smith Rowe couldn’t help Arsenal to victory on Friday night though as Everton claimed a 1-0 win at Emirates Stadium. The Toffees win came via a Bernd Leno error, though Mikel Arteta was quick to deflect the attention on to VAR failings.
Despite being on the losing side, Souness was quick to praise Smith Rowe for his speed of thought. And the pundit claims his abilities remind him of United legend Paul Scholes.
“I do like him, he’s got wonderful technique, pops it off first time, sees the picture,” Souness told Sky Sports.
“I don’t like midfield players – not naming any because there’s plenty around – that receive the ball and have to have two or three touches before they get their head up.
“[Smith Rowe] sees the picture early. I’m not saying this boy is like Paul Scholes but Paul Scholes was one of those players who had a picture in his head, whenever the ball was threatening to come near him he knew what he was going to do with it.
“[Smith Rowe] does it. Pops it off first time, moves, he’s silky, and he works his socks off. I think he’s got a big future.”
Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka also came in for praise this week from former Arsenal star Nwankwo Kanu.
He said: “They offer the team so much through their versatility. Saka can play in so many positions, and when he’s not playing, you can see the side struggles without him.
“Smith-Rowe is a very good player. He can open up games and Arsenal definitely need him to play more in the next few years.”
Souness blasts soft touch Arsenal
Despite praising Smith Rowe, Souness had a few choice words for the rest of the Arsenal side after Friday night’s disappointment.
“Arsenal had no aggression and if you’re a supporter, there was nothing to get you excited,” he added. “I think when a manager comes on and all they can highlight is a penalty they should have had, which is never a penalty, if that’s what you’re hanging your hat on to get a result, that isn’t good.
“I made the remark at half-time – what has happened to our game? There’s the incident with the penalty [for Arsenal] that was never a penalty, the reaction of players to that, the reaction of two teams who had a lot to play for tonight and not really having any fire or aggression about them.
“Everyone I speak to wants to see more aggression in the game. It comes from within. It comes from not wanting to lose a tackle or a header and certainly not losing the game. Arsenal look like a group of players just going through the motions.”