By Noel Whelan

7th Oct, 2021 | 6:45am

Pundit can't believe Arsenal would replace Smith-Rowe with France star as hijack plot reported

Nabil Fekir would not usurp Emile Smith Rowe at Arsenal amid reported transfer interest, according to Noel Whelan.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, claimed the 21-year-old midfielder and Bukayo Saka, 20, are the “heartbeat” of the Gunners’ side.

Spanish outlet Fichajes reported on Saturday (October 2nd) Arsenal, Everton and West Ham are all interested in signing France international Fekir from Real Betis.

While the 28-year-old is said to be in contract talks with the Spanish outfit, a big-money rival offer could reportedly hijack the deal.

Fekir has started this season in sparkling form for Real Betis, who sit 10th in La Liga.

Smith Rowe has two goals in eight Arsenal appearances this season after signing a bumper contract extension in July.

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Asked if Fekir’s potential arrival could stifle Smith Rowe’s development, Whelan told Football Insider’s Ewan Kingsbury: “I don’t think anything is going to hold Smith-Rowe back.

“He is now the heartbeat of that club along with Saka.

“They were the shining light of Arsenal’s dismal season last year and they are the future.

“They’re setting the standards ahead of all the international, big-money stars at the club.

“You would want to build the team around those two, looking at how influential and passionate they are.

“They have a real desire to play for Arsenal and that’s what the fans want to see – someone willing to leave it all out there on the pitch after 90 minutes.

“The effect they’re having on the more experienced players around them is possibly even bringing out better performances in them.”

Smith Rowe has netted nine goals and registered eight assists in 55 appearances.

He has played twice for England’s under-21 side, making his debut in March this year.

In other news, pundit delivers verdict as Arsenal’s Arteta uses “special relationship” to seal transfer.