Arsenal academy director Mertesacker said the two England prospects are good enough to inspire a new generation of young talent in the Emirates.
Gunners starlet Saka, 20, is one of the country’s brightest prospects while Smith-Rowe has scored for England’s Under-21 this week as the club look to move in a different direction with young talents under Mikel Arteta.
Former Arsenal defender Mertesacker believes the pair are vital to the club’s progress and return to the days of returning to the top four as they find themselves out of European competition for the first time in 25 years.
Mertesacker said: “It has always been a story at Arsenal to give young players a chance to play at the top. We ask Bukayo and Emile to bring us back to the Champions League. They will take it proudly, but we also need to understand the context.
“He’s always been there. If you ask Bukayo and Emile, they’ll tell you how they got inspired by Jack Wilshere, Fabregas, Bellerin. Thus, the next generation of players under 9 at the academy will be inspired by these players.
“However, they will talk about the bumpy road, about their learning, about this journey which was not always easy. The reality is that these two are exceptions.
“The academy staff have always gone out of their way to bring the players to the highest level, which can make the difference in our first team or in another first team. This is extremely important for the club and it will always be a priority.
“We are giving young players the chance to learn how to be vulnerable, to be exposed at the highest level and to be good leaders for this club in two or three years, while recognizing that they will probably need to suffer before they bring us back to glory.
“These are my expectations. Hopefully Bukayo and Emile can take on the next level of talent in the first team and challenge them in the right way. “
Saka and Smith-Rowe are the shining lights of the current generation, but Arsenal have also signed a groundbreaking deal with tech company STATSports to allow fans and young players to use the same data as the first team and the academy. .
They will see data – such as speed, distance traveled and time spent in the “red zone” – of Arsenal’s first team and can compare themselves to top club stars like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with the academy in. using technology from below -12s up.
But Mertesacker also points out that mentality is just as important as physical attributes and it was Saka’s state of mind that helped him overcome the heartbreak of Euro last summer, but also reach the summit as many of his youth squad buddies fell to the side.
Mertesacker added: “Even the huge disappointment of the summer in terms of penalty failure. It is the making of Bukayo Saka. It was a lot for him but he will deliver for England and for Arsenal in the years to come. You can be reassured about that.
“You just need to be there to support him when these times happen and he absolutely received it from everyone involved.
“So we absolutely love that he’s such an inspiration, his personal skills and the way he always stays true to himself and the bumpy road he’s taken instead of just watching the brilliant things to come – the contracts and money.
“No, it’s all about values and he learned from his parents, his peers and a bit of the academy. “