Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit has said that Emile Smith-Rowe can deliver a top-four finish for Arsenal to his season, and that the young attacking midfielder and winger reminds him of Paul Gascoigne with his style of play.
Petit praised boss Mikel Arteta, who he believes has been crucial to
the team’s recent change in fortunes, and said the Spaniard has what
it takes to manage at the very top.
Speaking exclusively to Bookmakers.co.uk, Petit gave his thoughts on Arsenal’s chances of finishing in the top four this season, and feels they have recovered well from their tough start to the season.
Petit feels that a rough set of early fixtures compounded Arsenal’s
woes, and that they can now put that behind them and kick on for the
rest of the season.
“It was a very bad start but when you have to play City and Chelsea
right at the beginning of the season when you still haven’t quite
found the right balance in the team, it’s not easy and it can hit your
confidence,” Petit told Bookmakers.co.uk.
“Now they look much better and you can see that not only in the
performances but also the results.
“Most importantly, Arteta looks to have found his preferred starting
XI now. There’s been so much turnover and so many changes at the club, so it was always going to be difficult to evolve and find confidence.
“He’s been trying so long to find the right balance and the right tactics and it’s finally starting to come together and I’m happy to
“Ramsdale has shown what he is capable of and Gabriel is back now too. I think the goalkeeper, defenders and midfielders have all grown in
“At one stage, you could feel the fear in these players. They were
missing personality on the pitch, but step-by-step they have recovered
and that tells me that, mentally, they are much stronger now and they
“Even players like Saka are becoming leaders in this team, despite his
“We will have a better idea of what this Arsenal team can achieve this
season right after Christmas time. When you look at the schedule, they
have very, very tough games and they’re going to have to show some
Petit feels that Arteta’s growth as a manager is a huge reason behind
their resurgence, and thinks the Spaniard cuts a happier figure on the
touchline in recent weeks.
“His body language now compared to August has changed so much,” said Petit. “You only have to look at his face to see it.
“You could see in his face in the first few weeks of the season that
he was under a lot of pressure, he looked tired, annoyed and angry.
“Now, when I look at him, everything has changed. He’s a young manager
but the way you show your emotions can have an impact on your players,
especially young players like he has at Arsenal. But he’s improving as
a manager and so are his players.
“The big thing for Arsenal this season is not playing in Europe, which means more time to recover and work towards the weekend. It’s a big chance for Arsenal to focus domestically and over the next five weeks or so we’ll see how much of a chance they have of competing for the top four.
“It will be very difficult because there’s a lot of competition.”
Perhaps Petit’s biggest statement, one which will be music to the ears
of Arsenal fans everywhere, was about youngster Emile Smith-Rowe.
Petit is in awe of the young attacker, and compared him to one of the
most skilful players ever to grace the Premier League, Paul Gascoigne.
He said: “I want to see Smith-Rowe, Saka, Lacazette, and Aubameyang
all continue to play together. For me, that’s the best quartet and key
to their success.
“They have all been playing in the same side together and you can see
them making the right decisions, working together and growing in
“So, I hope Arteta will stick with this and can avoid injuries.”
“I think Smith-Rowe is improving because of his character, humility
and desire,” said Petit, who has excelled on the left for Arsenal but
is seen as a classic number 10 player going forward.
“He’s got a lot of ambition and he has so much support from the crowd
because he plays with love on the pitch.
“He has shown so many qualities and improvements, just like Saka did,
and they are the two best examples from the academy right now and
could be the future of England as well.
“If Smith-Rowe can continue to improve on his statistics in terms of
goals and assists and maintain his personality then he can be
Arsenal’s number 10 for some time, but he needs to stay focussed
because he can go missing for 20 minutes here or there. But if he can
do that then he has a big future.
“He reminds me sometimes of Paul Gascoigne when he has the ball at his feet and when he runs with it, he’s a natural player in his mind and
in his feet.”
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