Mikel Arteta says Emile Smith Rowe can take confidence that his omission from the England squad is being questioned and his first senior call-up will come at the “right moment”.
Smith Rowe, 21, was widely tipped to be selected by Gareth Southgate for England’s final two World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino later this month.
But, along with Arsenal team-mate Ben White, the academy graduate missed out on the squad despite scoring four goals and making two assists across all competitions for his club.
Asked if Smith Rowe should be gutted at missing out, Arteta replied: “I think he should be happy if people are gutted or people are questioning any decision because that tells you the level that he is playing at.
“Like anything that has happened in Emile’s career it will come when it is the right moment because we don’t know if now is the right moment.
“Gareth knows much better than us to judge about the role that he could have in that team and he has decided that it is not the right moment. I am sure that it was a very thoughtful process and the right decision.”
Southgate cited Smith Rowe and Crystal Palace loanee Conor Gallagher, both England U21 internationals, as pushing their claims for senior call-ups in an England midfield department that has plenty of depth.
White, who has helped keep five clean sheets since he signed from Brighton for £50m in the summer, has not been named in an England squad since his late inclusion ahead of Euro 2020.
“Gareth has to make some very difficult choices, he has got so many options,” added Arteta, who saw Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka named in Southgate’s squad.
“What I like is that our players are performing at a level that I am sure that they are giving problems in selection to Gareth and the coaching staff.
“That is what pleases me because I know that they have the level to do it.”
Arsenal, who lost their opening three league games of the season, are on a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions since their 5-0 defeat by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on August 28.
A win against Watford on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, in Arteta’s 100th game in charge of the Gunners could leave them level on points with those in the top four.
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In Arteta’s first two years in charge, the former Arsenal midfielder has faced pressure over his job at different times but is now starting to see consistency in performances from his squad into his second full season in charge.
Asked to summarise his tenure at the helm of Arsenal so far, Arteta said: “An incredible and quick journey.
“A lot has happened not only at the football club but around the world that obviously has a huge impact in everything we did in the last two years.
“Top privilege to be where I am. I am really enjoying the opportunity and the challenge that we have ahead.”