Emile Smith Rowe
Could our second team be as good as our first?
Supposing something very strange happened and a premier league team bought all our (probably) second choice players and decided they would have them as their first choice? How would they do? And suppose they paired them with a top young manager like Marco Silva? Let’s call this team Learns AFC. I feel they would do surprisingly well. I have put the names up above as my choice of our second choice. I am sure some would disagree with me and feel free to do so. I am doing this exercise to challenge the perception that we don’t have strength in depth. Let’s take a look at their attributes.
Turner jumps up to the highest level
Matt Turner in goal is a permanent member who has won keeper of the tournament and keeper of the year plus the Concacaf Gold trophy with an improving American side. The Yanks might grab Balogun to make them even better. A regular start for a premiership team should see him iron out his nervousness and giving the ball away. I am fairly certain plenty of games would see him being praised as a top goalkeeper. Learns AFC would do well to have a top international keeper in their side.
The fullbacks are fantastic
Kieran Tierney is playing wonders for the Scottish team on this break, being twice rated as second highest ranked Scot. Has already played 36 times for them and is bound to have many more. Always a threat going forward and he has that burst of pace to go past people and get in dangerous crosses and pullbacks. Surely if he keeps injury free a huge asset for any team?
Tomiyasu, is, I feel, a superb player who is a tenacious defender who rarely has a bad game. He is an integral member of a Japanese side who beat Spain and Germany at the last World Cup. Played 32 times already at 24 and seems guaranteed to keep getting picked. He is still young enough to have plenty of improvement and should easily be recognized as one of the Premier leagues top fullbacks.
A young and old centreback pairing could be magic
Rob Holding is another who would, I am sure, improve enormously with a regular place. The last time he had an extended run he was one of our best players. He has 5 England under 21 caps and is still only 27. He could have ten years as a centre-back left in him. I believe he has the ability as he has sometimes put top players in his pocket such as Erling Haaland recently. He isn’t the quickest but an awful lot of superstar centrebacks weren’t and aren’t. It is that nous to sniff out danger that really matters. The fullbacks can provide the speed.
Holding - can he finally be a top player?
Jakub Kiwior has played 11 times for the full Polish team so has got experience at the top level. He was nervous on his debut but that is understandable. He could well turn out to be a real gem once he finds his feet.
Can Kiwior combine to produce centreback magic?
Jorginho leads the midfield
Jorginho has an extraordinary amount of trophies and awards during his career including UEFA men’s player of the season 2020/21. 46 caps for Italy and more to come. Could be one of the wise old heads to push Learns AFC forward to being winners. If he gets back to his best could be a significant player for a few more years.
Vieira - a new Portuguese superstar?
Fabio Vieira is surely one for the future. Lots of caps at under-age level for Portugal and it seems like it won’t be long before they become full caps. He has impressed at times when he has come on but those of us with long memories will tell you that even Saka and Odegaard looked poor at times at the start so I wouldn’t take too much notice of his mistakes. I feel certain he will come good simply because of the good passages of play he has had. He has definite ability.
Will injuries derail Smith Rowe?
Emile Smith Rowe is, to me, an incredible player. He badly needs to stay fit but surely he is one that will claim a first choice spot for Arsenal. Lots of caps at underage level for England and one full cap but if he recaptures his form I believe he will be an undroppable player for both but for the purposes of this exercise I am placing him in Learns AFC.
Trossard, Nketiah and Nelson to match Martinelli, Jesus and Saka
Reiss Nelson just seems to do amazing things when he comes on. I feel he would walk into most teams in the Premiership. Again lots of underage caps for England and massive belief in him by Arteta. Surely, with his talent, he will make it?
Eddie Nketiah is next. He was unbelievable for England underage being top scorer with 16 goals for 17 appearances. He has done well for us this season when given a start. 9 goals in 32 appearances this season doesn’t sound too good but so many of them were just a few minutes at the end. He hasn’t let us down and could well be needed towards the end of the season.
Nketiah-The team will need this guy to score goals
Leandro Trossard has come here and been terrific. With 25 games for Belgium since his first in 2020, he has shined at one of the top countries, and truly is great to watch. He has brought pure skill, and great intelligence plus drive to Arsenal and Learns AFC would be phenomenal with him. Only 28 so lots of time left.
A nightmare for the other teams
There you have it. Let’s say that team somehow appeared in the Premier League next year, and like I say, with a top manager such as De Zerbi or Silva who could work with young players. Where could they finish? I would say Champions league is an excellent possibility. What do you think?
The only negative I can see is that some of these players have had injury problems and we have all seen with Walcott, Oxlade Chamberlain and Wiltshire that they may not make the heights when they come back. Also a few are unproven at Premier league level such as Vieira, Nelson, Kiwiora and Turner and throw in Holding and Nketiah who need to step up to their best, but this team could be a match for almost anyone out there. Only Jorginho is over 30 and plenty are still young enough for lots of improvement.
If this Learns AFC team existed, were coached well, developed partnerships and understanding, and, of course improved as they got older, they could even be a match for the first team Arsenal. This shows we have good players ready to come in. But I fear some could go in the summer and we will miss them as they could well prove Arteta wrong. I just hope I haven’t given a great idea to some billionaire to furnish, say a Leeds or an Everton with a readymade team who all know each other and could challenge for the highest trophies.