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Jamie Redknapp has hailed Emile Smith Rowe, describing the Arsenal star as a ‘revelation’, and warned new signing Martin Odegaard he will need to ‘work hard’ to force his way into Mikel Arteta’s team.
Smith Rowe is enjoying a breakthrough season at the Emirates, having made his first Premier League start of the campaign in the Boxing Day win over Chelsea.
Redknapp has been ‘so impressed’ by Smith Rowe’s performances for the Gunners and says he ‘hopes’ his role does not change despite the arrival of Odegaard at Arsenal.
‘The main catalyst has been the young players,’ Redknapp told Sky Sports. ‘Emile Smith Rowe has come in and been a revelation. They needed someone to light the flame, give them that spark.
‘I remember at Liverpool when Graeme Souness gave myself, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler our debuts we had no fear. The senior players were more nervous, a bit consumed by fear.
‘I felt that as I got older but when you’re a young player you don’t care, you just want to play. ‘For Emile Smith Rowe this is the dream. He’s an academy boy and you can see he’s doing a great job, the fans love him.
‘I hope with Odegaard coming into the club, that doesn’t stop him being instrumental in what they’re doing.
‘The hardest thing for him will be – and I’m sure he knows this – where he plays is a position where you’re always looking for the best in the world or players in that position to be a No 10 or wide man. He’s competing with some of the best.
‘So he’s going to have to always maintain these standards he’s producing right now.
‘But I’ve been so impressed with him, I love his work ethic, I love the way he runs with the ball, he’s been a breath of fresh air for this team, exactly when they needed it.’
Real Madrid had high hopes for Odegaard when they signed him as a teenager in 2015. He has made just eight league appearances for the club, however, and has now been sent out on his fourth loan move.
Arteta has spoke glowingly of the Norway international but Redknapp has issued a word of warning to Odegaard. He added: ‘It feels a bit of a shame really because I remember when he burst onto the scene, and it was a case of “what’s going to be next for this young man?”
‘I get it, I understand it, I did it when I went to Liverpool when I was 17, and I was pretty lucky things worked out for me there.
‘He went to Real Madrid and it probably felt at that time too early, it didn’t feel like the right move. ‘You have to gradually start the process of becoming a Real Madrid player when you’re 23, 24 and you’re established. Otherwise you get lost in the B team. Zidane is obviously not that big a fan.
‘He’s 22 – I’m amazed, it almost feels like a wasted six or seven years. He might not say that.
‘He might say it’s a great experience for him but to keep going on loan… you need a home. ‘But this is a chance for him to have a look at the Premier League and he might think this is the best option for him for his style of play.
‘Sometimes younger managers prefer to work with younger players, and that seems to be the case a little bit, that Arteta gets the best out of them.
‘With Odegaard coming in, you’d like to think he’s a player who can give you an option if you need it but Smith Rowe has that shirt now and Odegaard is going to have to work hard to get into this team.’