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Emile Smith Rowe explains ‘tough’ Arsenal injury and character building return to action

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Arsenal forward Emile Smith Rowe has revealed how the groin injury that has forced him to miss most of the season had been an ongoing issue since the 2018/19 campaign.

The Hale Ender has played only 143 minutes of football for the Gunners this season and has been unable to start a single match due to a repeated injury issue. Smith Rowe had featured in four of the opening six Premier League games of the season before the injury struck in September’s 3-1 defeat at Manchester United.

He was forced to have surgery on the problem after it was concluded it was the best route in order to have the 22-year-old return to the levels he produced last season. After making a brief comeback in the wins over Oxford United and Tottenham Hotspur in January, the winger suffered another setback that resulted in a further three weeks of absence.

Leandro Trossard’s January arrival from Brighton & Hove Albion has eased the burden left in Smith Rowe’s absence in Mikel Arteta’s attack, but with 10 games left of the current season, Smith Rowe is now back to try and regain his spot in the Gunners team.

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He marked his first start of the season in England Under-21s’ international friendly win over France with a well-timed header in the second-half. The Gunners ace played 66 minutes at Leicester’s King Power Stadium before leaving the field unscathed and with a smile on his face.

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And the smile followed him into the media room on Saturday afternoon. Smith Rowe was the Young Lions star who faced the press after the 4-0 win, where was quizzed on his return.

“I’m feeling good at the moment. It’s been quite difficult to get back into it from surgery and it was quite hard to get fully fit,” he said. “But I’ve been training a lot with Arsenal as well. I feel ready to go. It was good to get minutes today, I’m just building.”

The time with reporters – around 12 minutes – was also the Hale Ender’s first opportunity to speak about his injury in depth and provide a timeline on the procedure. “It was quite low at the beginning because I’ve never had surgery before,” Smith Rowe explained.

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“At the start I was quite worried, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I was going to be the same after the surgery. It was quite tough to deal with. I had my family around me, helping me every day. Everyone at Arsenal was helping me deal with it. It was really tough and something I’ve never felt before.

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“I’ve been struggling with this injury since the 2018/19 season but it’s the first time that I’ve had surgery. It’s been really difficult to deal with it and manage it. It was just before I went on loan to RB Leipzig, the first time. I think I was about 18/19 years old then. I’ve been managing it since then.

“Everyone at the club has been helping me, on and off the pitch. It’s such a family at Arsenal, all the boys have been helping me out as well. It’s been difficult but it’s been quite easy at the same time in terms of helping me.

“I tore my groin this season at Man United. It was an ongoing injury that I’ve had. In terms of my skeleton, it wasn’t quite developed on that area on my groin so that’s what it was. It just built up then, I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but finally it actually pulled off that game. I think it was the best for me to get surgery.

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“The first two weeks [after recovery] I was just at home, just recovering and stuff. After that I came in and got straight into work. I came away to St. George’s with my physio, which was good for me, with the different environment and faces.

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“I went to Qatar as well to train whilst the World Cup was there. I got to see a couple of games for England (3-0 Wales win) and support the Arsenal boys, which was good for me to get away from the training ground. I went as a fan. I’m really close with [Bukayo] Saka so he was looking after me.”

Smith Rowe’s performance for the England Under-21s will have been a moment of relief for the forward and Arsenal. With 10 cup finals remaining until the end of the season, the Croydon-born star could still play a huge role in the club’s first league title in nearly two decades.

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