Emile Smith Rowe has admitted that it will take a while for the fact that he is Arsenal ’s new No.10 to sink in as he follows in the footsteps of the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Mesut Ozil.
The 20-year-old finally ended speculation regarding his future, by signing a new long-term deal that will keep him at the Emirates until at least 2026.
Aston Villa were understood to have a firm interest in Smith Rowe and saw two bids rejected before his new contract was announced.
Arsenal were always adamant they would keep the Hale End graduate and made those negotiations one of their top priorities this summer.
As if to highlight the importance of Smith Rowe to Mikel Arteta’ squad, the Gunners have also confirmed he will switch from his old number 32 to take the coveted No.10.
It’s a shirt that has been synonymous with some of the club’s biggest talents including Bergkamp, Robin van Persie and most recently, Mesut Ozil.
And Smith Rowe is under no illusions as to just how prestigious his new squad number is.
“Everyone knows that No 10 is a big shirt and it is definitely a big position as well. I’m buzzing. I can’t wait to get on the pitch,” he explained.
“It’s really special – I can’t explain the feeling when I found out. I’ve not really got the words to explain it right now! But yeah, I’m really happy.
“The legends that have played here and have worn the shirt… it’s a bit too much right now but I’m sure I will calm down after a while.”
Ozil held the No.10 until his departure in January and Smith Rowe pointed to how influential training with the World Cup winner was.
He continued: “When I was younger I used to watch Dennis Bergkamp, and when I was going through the academy Mesut Ozil was here as well.
“Getting the opportunity to train with him and play with him as well was unbelievable.
“I just want to keep working hard and hopefully I can play like them and replicate what they’ve done.”
Despite his Arsenal career ending in a disappointing fashion, Ozil has remained a follower of the club, regularly tweeting throughout their matches and has already offered a verdict on his replacement.
Following the 0-0 draw with Villarreal in May, Ozil singled out Smith Rowe for his performance, claiming he proved there is still a future for the No.10.
“He made the difference in the last couple of games as a No 10,” Ozil posted on Twitter after the draw. “Really happy for him… and that he showed that playing with a No 10 still can make sense in today’s football.”
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