Mikel Arteta says Emile Smith Rowe can be confident that his omission from the England squad has been questioned and that his first senior call-up will come at the “right time”.
Smith Rowe, 21, was heavily selected by Gareth Southgate for England’s last two World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino later this month.
But, along with Arsenal teammate Ben White, the Academy graduate lost the squad despite scoring four goals and making two assists in all competitions for his club.
Asked if Smith Rowe should be gutted for getting lost, Arteta replied, “I think he should be happy if people are gutted or if people question any decision because that tells you the level he’s playing at.
“Like everything that has happened in Emile’s career, it will come when the time is right because we don’t know if now is the right time.
“Gareth knows a lot better than we do to judge the role he could have in that team and has decided it’s not the right time. I’m sure it was a very thoughtful process and the right decision.”
Southgate cited Smith Rowe and Crystal Palace loaner Conor Gallagher, both England U21 internationals, who pushed their requests for senior call-ups in an English midfield department that has a lot of depth.
White, who has helped keep five goalless goals since signing from Brighton for £ 50m in the summer, has not been named to an English side since his late inclusion before Euro 2020.
“Gareth has to make some very difficult choices, he has so many options,” added Arteta, who saw Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka named to the Southgate squad.
“What I like is that our players are performing at a level that I am sure are giving Gareth and the coaching staff problems in the selection.
“This is what pleases me because I know they have the level to do it.”
Arsenal, who have lost their first three league games of the season, are nine games unbeaten in all competitions since a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on 28 August.
A win against Watford on Sunday, live Sky Sports, in the 100th match of Arteta at the helm of the Gunners could leave them level on points with those in the top four positions.
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In Arteta’s first two years in charge, the former Arsenal midfielder has faced pressure on his work at different times, but is now starting to see consistency in his team’s performance in his second full season in charge.
When asked to summarize his tenure at Arsenal so far, Arteta said: “An incredible and fast journey.
“A lot has happened not only in the football team, but around the world, which obviously have a huge impact on everything we have done in the last couple of years.
“Great privilege to be where I am. I’m really enjoying the opportunity and the challenge we have ahead of us.”