Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta may have next ‘Kevin de Bruyne’ who snubbed Barcelona deal

Emile Smith-Rowe shows off skills in training in 2018

Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe has been at the forefront of the Gunners’ recent upturn in form. They were on a poor run of seven Premier League games without a win before manager Mikel Arteta gave the 20-year-old his first league start of the season against Chelsea on Boxing Day.

In that game, Smith Rowe assisted Bukayo Saka’s second-half goal as Arsenal beat the Blues 3-1 and he has started every league game since, with the Gunners on a three game unbeaten run.

The youngster has been compared to Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne, with Kieran Tierney appearing to call him the “Croydon De Bruyne” in a recent training video and Bukayo Saka calling him “Kev” on Instagram in reference to the Belgian superstar.

Smith Rowe has previously spoken about the comparisons and admitted De Bruyne is “someone I really look up to”.

He said: “I enjoy playing at No.10 the most. I love driving towards goal with the ball.

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“Some people have compared my playing style to Kevin De Bruyne’s and that’s a very nice compliment because he’s a great player and someone I really look up to.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can from watching De Bruyne and working hard in training with all of the world-class players around me.”

Smith Rowe also attracted interest from a number of clubs when he was coming through the club’s academy, with the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Barcelona linked with the midfielder.

However, he had no intentions of leaving Arsenal, calling them “the right club for me” in an interview with Sky Sports back in 2018.

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“I used to watch that Barcelona team, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, when they were in their prime,” he said.

“So when I found out that they were interested of course I was very happy, but I can’t explain to you how much I feel that Arsenal is the right club for me.”

Speaking ahead Arsenal’s 4-0 win over West Brom on Saturday, Arteta was full of praise for Smith Rowe, saying: “He is a player that I really liked since the first day I watched him.

“Just the way he moves, how intelligent he is with the positions he takes and his work rate – don’t underestimate that.

“He works really hard for the team and he had a really bad injury this year and hasn’t really trained with us at all.

“For the last two weeks he has been much more involved and you can see what he can bring to the team.

“I am delighted to have a young player with his talent and in that position.

“It was something that we needed.”

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