Mikel Arteta played down fears Emile Smith Rowe suffered a fresh injury setback during Arsenal’s dramatic comeback win over Bournemouth.
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The England international has endured a frustrating season but is now in a position to make a significant contribution during the run-in having hardly featured in the Premier League so far this term.
An injury to Leandro Trossard provided the gifted forward with an opportunity midway through the first half but he was taken off shortly after he had helped create a route back into the game with the assist for Thomas Partey’s goal.
Reiss Nelson replaced his fellow academy graduate having himself not featured for the first team since the final game before the World Cup break.
Explaining the change, Arteta said: ‘Obviously we didn’t’ plan to throw him in so early in the game.
‘We knew that obviously it was difficult for him to last 70 minutes on the field after missing five months almost of football.
‘But I felt he had a good impact in the game but I felt we needed something else, especially on the left because we were lacking threat and attracting more players on that side and that’s why we made the decision.’
That said, Arteta was hardly filled with confidence when the ball dropped to Nelson’s weaker left foot with the clock about to hit 97 minutes.
He added: ‘We put him in the training ground and 50 times put him there I don’t know if he’ll score. But he did it in the perfect moment for the team, the perfect moment for himself and he fully deserved that the kid.
‘I always saw the potential, the talent and the desire for him to do it, but he’s at a different level right now. I think emotionally, the experiences that he had helped him.
‘Football-wise, it was my decision in the last two games not to play him because we had other options.
‘But he was knocking on the door, he’s been training really good and it’s a good lesson for me and for the coaches that we need him and that he can be really important for the team.’
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