Smith-Rowe started off as a nice playmaker between the lines before he developed into a transitional threat with his phenomenal ball carrying. Lately, he has showcased his off-ball ability to arrive late into the box, hence the goalscoring run. The next step? La Pausa.
So, at this point you may ask what is La Pausa? It’s when a player looks like they have all the time in the world in possession. It typically comes to the fore within uber-talented young players as they grow in confidence and realise that they’re good enough to be the main man.
Examples include the likes of Mahrez, Grealish, peak Hazard, Messi.. it’s even starting to rear its head with Martinelli. See, these players started their careers at 100mph. Every action they took was with maximum intensity because they were immature and subsequently rushed.
As these special players realised their qualities, they developed a more measured, leadership role – their personality grew. They began to realise they didn’t need to rush because they were better than most players they played against. Saka, for one, has already developed it.
Saka, despite being relatively new to the top level, already has the confidence to slow the game down when he receives possession. He often delays before bursting past his man. We have seen it so many times this season on that right wing where’s he’s dusted his man in 1v1s.
That is why Saka is already world class. He has the mentality and maturity of a seasoned veteran to go with the frightening quality he naturally possesses (ball striking, 1v1 ability, central runs which make him a goal threat, physicality, etc). Smith-Rowe has yet to reach that.
However, is that a problem for Smith-Rowe? Does it cap his development? No. There’s a lot of special talents out there who took their time in developing La Pausa. Steven Gerrard, for one, was hurried in his actions until his early mid-20’s, & then he became world class instantly.
The difference? He developed a maturity in his game along with a sense of realisation – he knew he was better than the opposition’s players. Rooney was similar – 100mph and then in his peak he was more mature & had more time on the ball. Smith-Rowe has yet to gain that arrogance.
However, I expect it to come. Smith-Rowe has a superb combination of playmaking (playing a pass that works the opposition block, entices combination play, recycles, etc) & creating (being direct). He also has the power physically to make that work in transition at just 21 years.
Furthermore, as mentioned previously, he can carry the ball himself in transition. This is a trait that many similar types of players lacked due to a lack of power (Mesut Özil, David Silva). And, not only that, but Smith-Rowe attacks the box from deep & strikes through the ball.
And he does that from either flank AND on either foot. Oh and he’s comfortable receiving between the lines in tight situations. Smith-Rowe is a freakish talent. Once he realises that & develops the self-belief of a Saka, he will begin to control attacks & become more influential.
Smith-Rowe’s development is completely natural – the boy is only 21, and to be quite frank, his development as a footballer coincides near perfectly with Arsenal’s development as a project. Saka, Martinelli, Ødegaard, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, and Ramsdale are all similar ages.
That is a frightening thought. That in tandem with Arteta’s elite tactics and ruthless but phenomenally well thought out squad building skills AND coaching development of players like Saka who has developed La Pausa will inevitably see ESR reach the standards he’s capable of.
Smith-Rowe can take inspiration and knowledge from other youngsters within Arsenal’s team such as Ødegaard and Saka who have (and are starting to in Martinelli’s case) developed La Pausa. Ødegaard in particular may aid ESR due to his leadership qualities and similar profile.
It’s something that naturally evolves within technically gifted youngsters, & that’s exactly what Smith-Rowe is, & much more. Smith-Rowe is fun now, but wait until he gains a sense of arrogance. He will then run rings around teams due to the added quality of La Pausa in his game.