Jamie Redknapp has lavished praise on Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe on the Pitch To Post Preview Podcast but says the arrival of Martin Odegaard will see the youngster fighting for a place in the first team.
Having failed to appear for the Gunners in the opening months of the campaign, Smith Rowe was finally handed a league start on Boxing Day against Chelsea – and hasn’t looked back since.
Smith Rowe at heart of Arsenal resurgence
The 20-year-old has started Arsenal’s last six league games. The Gunners have won five of them, with Smith Rowe registering three assists.
Arsenal have shot up the table after a terrible start to the campaign and Redknapp believes Smith Rowe deserves plenty of credit for the team’s revival.
He said: “Emile Smith Rowe has come in and been a revelation. (Arsenal) needed someone to light the flame, give them that spark.”
New Gunner in town
However, Arsenal completed the signing of Martin Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid this week. The Norwegian playmaker looks to be a direct rival to Smith Rowe.
Redknapp acknowledged Smith Rowe faces a fight to keep his place in the team but he’s optimistic the Englishman can use Odegaard’s arrival as motivation.
Redknapp said: “The hardest thing for him will be – and I’m sure he knows this – is that where he plays is a position where you’re always looking for the best in the world or players in that position to be a No 10 or wide man. He’s competing with some of the best.
“So he’s going to have to maintain those standards he’s producing right now.
“But I’ve been so impressed with him. I love his work ethic. I love the way he runs with the ball. He has been a breath of fresh air for this team exactly when they needed it.”
Doubt for crunch clash
Smith Rowe was forced off with a muscle problem in the midweek win at Southampton, which could open the door for Odegaard to make his debut against Manchester United tomorrow.
Smith Rowe will hope to be fully fit soon to prove he can remain the main man for Mikel Arteta.
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