England under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd has laid praise on Emile Smith Rowe, claiming his ability off the ball is one of his underrated traits.
The Englishman was on fire during Sunday’s north London derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur, wreaking havoc down the left flank alongside Kieran Tierney.
Speaking to football.london, the manager lauded the Hale End academy product for his work rate off the ball and his footballing brain.
Boothroyd said: “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.”
Last week’s performance highlighted a lot of what Boothroyd has claimed in his interview. It wasn’t Smith Rowe’s on-the-ball work that impressed the most, however, it was his runs beyond Kieran Tierney in behind right-back Matt Doherty. This was analysed to great effect by BBC’s Match of The Day, who laid praise on the attacker for the intelligence of his play.
On top of his runs, the youngster possesses energy, desire and hunger to win back possession not seen in any of the senior attackers like Nicolas Pepe and Willian. It’s part and parcel of the reason why Arsenal have been so successful since the win over Chelsea last December.
However, the most impressive thing about the 20-year-old’s game is his awareness about things around him. As mentioned above, he constantly ran into space versus Tottenham, but it was his awareness of the space which was the most pleasing aspect.
He also has a picture of where he wants to play the ball prior to receiving it and produces with an air of confidence not seen in young players.
Smith Rowe is just as effective off the ball as he is on it and his call up to the England under-21s is a sign of his stunning progress this season.