IF Arsenal are to bid farewell to Aaron Ramsey next summer, then a ready-made replacement may be in their ranks.
Emile Smith Rowe is still only 18, born this side of the Millennium in the same month Robert Pires signed at Highbury, but his talent and potential is clear to see.
Having scored in his last outing for Unai Emery’s team, a cooly-taken opportunity in the Europa League, Smith Rowe added another here to help Arsenal into the quarter-final.
Carl Jenkinson’s cross was palmed away by Mark Howard but Smith Rowe’s perfectly-timed run saw him score the goal that eventually beat Blackpool.
Such tender years could have seen him blast it over, but Smith Rowe drilled his effort into the floor with composure.
It summed up his performance.
The South London lad, who had trials at Chelsea, demanded the ball throughout, showing the confidence and responsibility his boss had asked for prior to kick-off.
For these are the moments when Arsenal starlets are unearthed.
Five years ago, it was Hector Bellerin impressing on his debut in this competition against West Brom. Three years later, it was Alex Iwobi’s turn to show what he could do.
And here it was Smith Rowe.
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His rise has been a rapid one as he was playing in the U23s for much of the last campaign, where he scored 13 goals and assisted four.
Yet this summer saw his opportunity come when Emery took over from Arsene Wenger.
The youngster caught the attention of Emery as soon as he arrived at the club, with the Spaniard selecting him for his first-ever game at the helm.
A Premier League appearance may remain a distant possibility but Arsenal’s League Cup run will continue to present opportunities.
Against this League One side, Smith Rowe was part of a midfield full of creativity. He remains raw and will have learned from the experienced Ramsey alongside him but could well end up replacing him.
The Welshman’s time at the Emirates appears to be up as his contract stand-off with the club looks likely to spell the end.
Ramsey is set to leave for free and the Arsenal faithful will expect the purse strings to be pulled open and a blockbuster signing to be made.
But Emery’s ability to coach on the training ground could see him develop Smith Rowe into that ready-made replacement.