Premier League 2
Arsenal 2 (Tormey 58, Smith Rowe 62) Brighton & Hove Albion 1 (Longman 90)
By Jeorge Bird @ Meadow Park, Borehamwood
He was only promoted to the squad this summer, but Emile Smith Rowe carries all the hallmarks of a first-team player.
Tonight, in a hard-fought encounter at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, the 19-year-old produced an impressive display as he continued his return from injury and found the net in the 2-1 victory with a neat strike after a burst forward.
There remains uncertainty regarding what will happen to Smith Rowe in the next couple of weeks, with the youngster, who had an injury-ridden spell at RB Leipzig in the second half of last season, having been heavily linked with another loan move away.
On this evidence, it seems the best decision would be to keep him at Arsenal, for the first half of the season at least, with Smith Rowe, providing he stays fully fit, capable of providing the team with a extra dimension.
Nathan Tormey was also on the scoresheet against Brighton, with Steve Bould’s side continuing their 100 per cent start to the campaign, despite Ryan Longman’s late strike for the visitors.
Rob Holding started against Blackburn Rovers but wasn’t involved tonight, with Joseph Olowu replacing him. The other change saw Tyreece John-Jules come into the side at the expense of James Olayinka.
Tom Smith was named on the bench despite the goalkeeper being on loan at Salisbury.
Subs: McEneff (for Smith Rowe, 62), Cottrell (for Tormey, 84). Not used: T. Smith, Omole, Olayinka.
Folarin Balogun, who hit a hat-trick against Blackburn, was eager to get another goal, but he saw his early attempt saved by Thomas McGill.
A mistake from Zak Swanson then presented Brighton with an opportunity but they couldn’t capitalise.
At the other end Balogun had a penalty claim turned down with the striker later lashing an effort wide after being teed by John-Jules.
Swanson then had to make an important intervention at the other end to prevent Brighton from scoring, with a rather uneventful first half ending goalless.
Arsenal started the second half much more sharply and John-Jules shot over following a well-timed cross from Trae Coyle.
Smith Rowe then showed that his penchant for bursting forward remains very much intact, with the prospect drawing a foul from the opposition.
After much pressure, Arsenal finally took the lead in the 58th minute and it was Tormey who scored his first goal of the season with a composed finish after he was located by Balogun.
Soon afterwards it was 2-0 with Smith Rowe scoring a goal very much of his own making as he pushed forward again and finished well.
That proved to be Smith Rowe’s last action of the game as, after 62 minutes, he was withdrawn and replaced by Jordan McEneff.
Brighton threatened intermittently but Balogun missed a chance to score when John-Jules felt he should have passed the ball to him instead.
The game was far from over, with Brighton missing an inviting chance to score, and eventually Longman managed to score to ensure a frantic finish.
There was a further chance for Brighton in the closing stages, but Arsenal goalkeeper James Hillson refused to be beaten, with the young Gunners taking all three points for the second time this week.
Arsenal’s first half performance wasn’t of a particularly high standard, but they were far more effective after the restart, with Tormey, Coyle, John-Jules and Balogun linking up well, while Smith Rowe also made a significant contribution before being withdrawn.
McEneff also caught the eye with some slick passes after he entered the fray, while centre-back Joseph Olowu was resilient as he read the game well and showed that he is over his injury struggles. Captain Robbie Burton also deserves credit for his display.
It does feel as though there is something missing in this Arsenal team, especially after players of the calibre of Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah and Xavier Amaechi, for various reasons, are no longer in action at this level.
However, there are still some talented players for Bould to call upon, and Tormey is certainly getting his reward for his hard work in training.
Another player who has endured much misfortune with injuries, the winger appears to be very highly regarded by Bould and should receive plenty of further opportunities to impress this season.
Next up for Arsenal is another home game, this time against Everton, which will take place at Emirates Stadium next week.