Emile Smith Rowe launched his Premier League career with a sensational performance on his full debut against Chelsea, but he could easily have been lining up for the Blues had they not rejected the chance to sign him during his teenage years.
Smith Rowe was sent out on loan to the likes of RB Leipzig and Huddersfield Town before Mikel Arteta, in the midst of an injury crisis and a dire run of form, turned to the Hale End academy graduate ahead of a Boxing Day London derby against Chelsea.
The 20-year-old repaid his manager’s faith with a near flawless performance, helping the Gunners record a 3-1 victory which effectively turned their season around.
While the gifted playmaker appears to have taken to senior football seamlessly, his career trajectory has been anything but straightforward having been turned away by Chelsea and forced to contemplate a potential move to Tottenham to kick-start his career.
‘Yeah. I grew up in an area that should be more Crystal Palace than anything else, but I was an Arsenal fan, Smith Rowe told the Daily Mail when asked by Jamie Redknapp about his Chelsea links.
‘I trialled at Chelsea and didn’t get in. Something about me not being big enough, I’ve heard. But Arsenal found out and picked me up.
‘They were flexible, too. They knew I lived far away and told me to come in when I could. Tottenham showed interest but I stood by Arsenal. They’re my club.’