Arsenal and England midfielder Emile Smith Rowe has been ruled out of action until December at the earliest after undergoing groin surgery this week.
Smith Rowe has been dogged by a series of niggling injuries in recent months and suffered another setback following the match against Manchester United on September 4.
It was subsequently decided, following specialist consultations, that the attacking midfielder needed surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his groin.
The surgery means that Smith Rowe has been definitively ruled out of the World Cup in November, although his lack of action so far this season had made it unlikely that he would be included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Qatar.
The 22-year-old made his senior international debut last season and has scored one goal for England in three matches.
Smith Rowe’s fitness issues have limited him to just four Premier League appearances this season, all of which have come as a substitute. He has played a total of just 48 minutes of first-team action in those games, and he is now not expected to return to full training until December.
Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, said earlier this month: “I am concerned about the fact that we don’t have him available and when he has been trying to train he has not been feeling 100 per cent fit or pain free. This is the main concern and we have to find a solution to that. We are trying to do that.”
Smith Rowe’s absence in the coming months will likely mean more first-team opportunities for new signing Fabio Vieira, who has impressed in recent weeks following his £30 million move from Porto.
It remains to be seen, though, whether Vieira can offer the same goal threat in the final third as Smith Rowe, who struck 10 times in 33 league appearances last season.
Analysis: Injuries have left Smith Rowe in Saka's shadow
It was not so long ago that Emile Smith Rowe was regarded as being as important to Arsenal, if not more important, than Bukayo Saka. The two golden boys of the Arsenal academy have done more than anyone to propel Mikel Arteta’s project forward and, for much of last season, it was thought that they could do the same for England, too.
What a shame it is, then, that Smith Rowe’s fitness issues have prevented him from keeping pace with Saka. It is now Saka who shines brightest, and Saka who is all but guaranteed to be on the plane to Qatar. Smith Rowe will instead have to watch from home, recovering from groin surgery.
At least the break in the season means that Smith Rowe will not miss as many club games as he would in a normal campaign. It is certainly true, though, that he will need to work hard — and be fortunate with the form and fitness of other players — if he is to regain his status as arguably Arsenal’s most important attacking player.
Football moves fast and Smith Rowe will know that he is in danger of falling behind, as he has done compared to Saka due to his niggling injury issues in recent months. But the hope is that this surgery can prevent those niggles from returning, allowing him to stay free of pain in the long-term. If all goes well, there is no reason to believe he will not be back where he once was — arm in arm with Saka at the vanguard of Arteta’s Arsenal.