Arsenal have named Emile Smith Rowe in their matchday squad for the first time since September ahead of their FA Cup tie against Oxford United.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has selected a strong starting XI to take on the League One outfit, with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes all involved.
Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney and Fabio Vieira are also part of the side, with Eddie Nketiah leading the line up front in the continued absence of Gabriel Jesus.
The likes of Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka have been rested, whilst there is a spot on the bench for 20-year-old Nathan Butler-Oyedeji.
But the major news for Arsenal will come in the form of Smith Rowe, who has been working his way back to full fitness after tearing his groin.
Smith Rowe returns for Arsenal
The 22-year-old has been named on the bench at the Kassam Stadium, and will be hoping to feature for the first time since September 4, when he played 17 minutes against Manchester United.
Speaking prior to the game, Arteta challenged Smith Rowe to find his best form quickly.
“He knows that he has the space in the squad to fulfil his potential,” Arteta said (quotes via London Evening Standard). “We really like him. I really like him, and he is a very important player for us.
“He knows that now he needs to jump on the train fast enough to have the impact that we all hope that he can have this season.”
The attacking midfielder, who can also play in wide areas, was described as ‘special’ by Liverpool legend and Sky pundit Jamie Carragher in October 2021.
He scored 10 goals and provided two assists for Arsenal in the Premier League last season, although was unable to be involved in any goal contributions this term prior to his groin tear.
Smith Rowe will hope his injury issues are now behind him and he can hit top form once again to help the Gunners during the second half of the 2022/23 season.