Arsenal has got its man, signing Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid on a permanent deal for a reported $41 million.
The Gunners will not have Odegaard for Sunday’s tilt with Chelsea, but Mikel Arteta will be thrilled to have the string-pulling Norwegian, especially after the absence of a playmaker was fully felt in a season-opening upset at Brentford.
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Odegaard impressed on loan last season, making 20 appearances between the Premier League and Europa League while dialing up two goals and two assists.
That includes a goal in a North London derby win over Tottenham Hotspur, which should make the most just a bit sweeter for Gooners.
So what should we expect from Odegaard, Mikel Arteta?
“A lot of things that he brought last season,” Arteta said, via Football.London. “He made us better. We needed more options, more alternatives, creativity, and players that can be models in this football club. He’s still a really young man but he has huge experiences in big clubs already and he has a unique talent for the way we want to play as well. So I am delighted the club has made an effort and we have now Martin in a permanent deal here.”
Real Madrid won the signature of Odegaard in 2015, when the 16-year-old completed a move from Stromsgodset after one of the most-publicized teen transfers in the world.
He debuted off the bench against Getafe in the final match of that La Liga season, but only made 10 more appearances for Real Madrid in a tenure that included starring loans to Heerenveen, Vitesse, Real Sociedad, and then Arsenal
What will Odegaard mean for Arsenal moving forward?
In a lot of ways, Odegaard is a throwback to Arsenal’s best days. This is a stylish ball mover who should not necessarily be confused with his uniform number, 8.
It remains to be seen what Odegaard as an everyday player can mean to Arsenal’s attack, at least as a focal point who won’t be leaving in a few months. He can chip in a goal, yes, and he’ll pressure the ball, but this a man who creates chances for others at a fairly elite clip and with clinical precision.
Odegaard ranks in the 98th percentile for attacking midfielders in terms of pass completion, the 86th percentile in progressive passes and the 91st in progression carries. He’s also better than 76% of his peers in expected assists and 84% in shot-creation actions.
Why did the transfer get over the line now?
The Brentford loss certainly didn’t help, but there’s much more to this.
Arteta said that the Gunners were a bit thrown into flux by Joe Willock’s outstanding loan to Newcastle last season, when the academy product set a Premier League record for consecutive games with a goal amongst players aged 21 or younger.
Arsenal wasn’t willing to give him the playing time that Newcastle and others promised and Dani Ceballos is also done with his Arsenal loan days.
“We lost Dani, we lost Joe and we didn’t [have] Martin, so in terms of creativity in the team and options in that position we were really short,” Odegaard said. “You see the numbers, what we did after Christmas when we had Martin in the team, people like Emile, the team performed at a completely different level. He’s someone that cannot be more liked around the place for what he brings to the team. Still at the age of his career that he is and the potential to grow that he has is immense.”
So does this mean Odegaard atop Granit Xhaka and a (one day) healthy Thomas Partey? Or could it be two attacking mids in Odegaard and Emile Smith-Rowe?
This could be incredibly electric with all Xhaka, Odegaard, and Partey on their best days, and Odegaard is certainly going to make sure that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette get the ball in good space.
Not yet, however, as Aubameyang has just returned to training and Lacazette is still out (both COVID-19).