The 20-year-old has been one of very few bright spots for the Gunners this term, and his winner against Chelsea showed his importance going forward
Mikel Arteta got exactly what he wanted from his Arsenal players against Chelsea.
They may have rode their luck at times, and were certainly given a helping hand by their hosts for their goal, but the 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday was a throwback to the end of last season.
It was a victory built on teamwork, concentration and spirit.
Arteta had called on his players to show "pride in the shirt" ahead of the game, and they showed exactly that.
Chelsea may have dominated possession and carved out the better chances, but the Gunners did not stop working. After Emile Smith Rowe had given the visitors a first-half lead, Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League finalists could not find a way back.
"It has been 10 years since we won here so it’s a really important result for the club, for our fans and as well for our players," Arteta said after the game.
"I think they showed how much they mean it, the spirit and the attitude they have among the group, and how much they care about it.
"They don’t have to show anything to me because I see them every day, how they prepare, how much they care, how professional they are and how much they try. Probably for the outside it was a big message."
Arteta’s side now sit eighth in the table with two games remaining. It is too little, too late perhaps, but Arsenal have at least started to lift some of the gloom that has descended over the cub in recent weeks.
It will take more than just a couple of wins to banish the nightmare of Villarreal, but the north London outfit deserve some credit for the way they have responded to the immense disappointment of their Europa League exit.
Against West Brom on Sunday, they showed plenty of quality going forward as they cruised to a 3-1 win, and at Stamford Bridge they showed the type of resolve that led them to the FA Cup last season.
And at the heart of both wins, they had a 20-year-old who offers real hope for the future.
There has not been many things to get excited about at Arsenal this season, but the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe is certainly one of them.
The academy product scored his first Premier League goal at the weekend, and he followed that up with another here.
It may not have been the prettiest he will ever score, but his scuffed finish from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s pass after Kepa Arrizabalaga clawed away Jorginho's errant back-pass was enough to earn his side all three points.
"Next season will be a different season," said Arteta. "We have to focus on trying to do the best because it will have an impact on next season."
Smith Rowe, along with Bukayo Saka, represent genuine hope for Arsenal.
They have already become leaders despite their relative inexperience, and there is no doubt they will be the bedrock of the new look Arsenal that will emerge over the next few years.
Huge change is on the way in north London, with Arteta planning a major overhaul of his underperforming squad this summer.
And in west London, fans saw a sign of what is to come.
Arsenal’s starting XI was full of players who look certain to still be at the club next season, while the bench contained several of the names who could be on the way out.
The switch in formation to a back three is not expected to be a long-term thing, but it did the job and enabled Arsenal to win at Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2011, completing a league double over Chelsea for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
Thomas Partey produced his best performance in months in the heart of midfield alongside Mohamed Elneny, while Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding and Pablo Mari were exceptional at the back.
Chances may have been few and far between for the visitors, but they showed a spirit and determination that has been lacking for large parts of the season.
Arteta called for his players to show pride in the shirt and they delivered at Stamford Bridge.
And while there may be very little to celebrate at Arsenal right now, in Smith Rowe and Saka they do at least have two shining lights that offer genuine hope for a brighter future.
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