A lot of talk surrounding Arsenal at the moment is about a potential midfield signing before the summer transfer window closes amid links to Youri Tielemans.
However, a few exits in this department are on the horizon, too, most notably Lucas Torreira’s move to Galatasaray. In addition, there is another midfielder on the books at the Emirates Stadium whose future must be decided within the next three weeks otherwise his development this season will almost certainly stall.
In many ways, Matt Smith is a forgotten man at Arsenal. Present for Mikel Arteta’s first-ever training session as head coach back in December 2019, the 21-year-old was included in several senior matchday squads after football resumed following the Covid-19 outbreak in the 2019/20 season without making an appearance.
Named on the bench for a Premier League win over Southampton and earning a FA Cup winner’s medal for the Gunners’ victory over Chelsea, Smith has since enjoyed loan three loan spells in League One with Swindon Town, Charlton Athletic and most recently, Doncaster Rovers.
Back at Arsenal this summer, the youngster featured in a 5-1 pre-season friendly win over Ipswich Town and travelled to Germany with the likes of Charlie Patino, Salah-Eddine, Lino Sousa and Reuell Walters for a mini-training camp. But time is running out for the midfielder to be a surprise name in Arteta’s plans for the remainder of the campaign.
This is because when the summer transfer window closes at the beginning of September, the Gunners will be permitted to name a 25-man squad for the Premier League. From which no more than 17 overseas players can be named, with the remaining eight places available to home-grown members of the squad.
To be considered home-grown, players need to have been registered with any club affiliated to The Football Association or the Welsh FA for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons, or 36 months, before his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21).
Right now, the Arsenal players who currently meet the home-grown criteria are Benjamin White, Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Aaron Ramsdale, Hector Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson. The reason Bukayo Saka, William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli aren’t included is because they are born after January 1st 2001, which makes them eligible to be registered as Under-21 players.
As Smith is born on October 5th 2001, which is before January 1st 2001, he can only be registered as a home-grown player if he’s named in the 25-man squad, although he would require one of Bellerin or Maitland-Niles, for example, to leave in order to fill one of the eight available spots.
But if there are no plans to include the midfielder in the Premier League squad, then it effectively ‘confirms’ he will be loaned out or sold permanently – amid previous links to Championship pair Milwall and Luton Town – before deadline day otherwise he will spend the first half of the season, at the very least, playing in the U23’s.