Throwing a youngster into the first team is a huge decision for any manager to make, but you also have to handle it in a way that suits the player as well.
You will get some players who are confident or some who will even want to know well in advance, but sometimes it might be best to surprise them on the day and reduce the team for any overthinking to happen.
Emile Smith Rowe is regarded by many as one of the first names on the Arsenal team sheet just now, but it’s easy to forget that he was barely a consideration until the end of last year when he was given a surprise start against Chelsea.
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A report from Football.London has looked at how he actually found out about playing in that game, and it’s funny to see that his first thought went to wondering what he had done wrong rather than being included in the team:
“I found out I was in the starting XI against Chelsea on the day of the game. I had a knock on my hotel room door and it was one of the coaches basically saying ‘the manager would like to speak to you downstairs.
“I was thinking ‘am I in trouble, have I done something wrong?’ So I’ve gone down there and he’s sat down in a chair and kind of just looked at me and said ‘I’ve got good news, you’re starting tonight’, he had the tactics board in front of him and showed me where I was playing and what I should do. He gave me so much confidence.
“I was so surprised, my heart was beating so quickly, it was such a big game against a big team like Chelsea. I was really nervous, but at the same time it was a big moment.”
In a way it looked like Arteta dealt with it perfectly because he didn’t have enough time to really worry about how the game would go, while it’s also one of the moments that genuinely helped to turn Arsenal’s season around.