Was signing Odegaard the right move for Arsenal?

By Edward V
In Arsenal
Sep 15th, 2021

Arsenal have been the biggest spenders of the summer transfer window so far. The Gunners have paid nearly £130 million for a host of players, including England defender Ben White and Norwegian captain Martin Odegaard. 

Odegaard arrived at the Emirates from Real Madrid on a permanent deal in mid-August for £30 million. The midfielder had a six-month loan spell with the Gunners last season, and he impressed future squad building boss Mikel Arteta enough during his loan to tempt the North London club into a permanent move for the creative midfielder.

22-year-old Odegaard certainly has pedigree, having played at Real Madrid since the age of 16. But will his arrival be enough to help Arsenal have a more successful 2021/22 campaign after their failures in the previous season? 

How will Odegaard Fit into Arsenal’s System?

In the opening two matches of the Premier League season, Mikel Arteta has fielded a 4-2-3-1 formation. 21-year-old attacking midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe occupying the number 10 role behind the striker, and Gabriel Martinelli, Pepe or Bukayo Saka have played out wide.

Odegaard is likely to challenge Smith-Rowe for the number 10 position upsetting the Football Odds, but he will certainly be expected to, given his price-tag and experience as a first team player. Alternatively, Arteta could field both of his creative midfielders, but either Odegaard or Smith-Rowe would have to move into a wide position to facilitate this. 

Last season, Smith-Rowe had more goal contributions for the Gunners than Odegaard. The English midfielder scored two goals and made four assists compared to Odegaard’s one goal and two assists. 

There is no doubt that both Smith-Rowe and Odegaard have exceptional potential and the ability to unlock a defence. However, the issue for Arteta lies in who he will rely on in the number 10 role. Fielding either player out wide is an option, but with Saka, Pepe and Martinelli more suited to these roles, the impact of Odegaard or Smith-Rowe in wide areas is unlikely to have an impact. 

Can he Improve Arsenal’s scoring woes?

Signing Odegaard for £30 million is a solid acquisition, and his value is only likely to rise with regular Premier League football. In his 14 Premier League appearances for the Gunners last season, the Norwegian showed glimpses of quality and an ability to adapt to the top-flight. 

He could also prove to be a valuable player to help Arsenal rectify their goal scoring problems from the 2020/21 season. Arteta’s side scored the second least goals in the top half of the league last season (55). At the Emirates, the Gunner’s goal-scoring record was even worse, and they only found the net 21 times in the Premier League season.

The creative spark was also an issue for Arsenal. In terms of big chances created, veteran midfielder Willian (!) produced the most opportunities for his side, with five. This was the55th lowest amount in the division over the entire season, with the likes of Bruno Fernandes (20), Kevin De Bruyne (19) and Trent Alexander Arnold (14) creating the most big chances in the Premier League. 

Odegaard can certainly fill this gap and add more attacking intent to Arsenal’s midfield. But an area where Arsenal need to support the 22-year-old is with a new striker. 

Both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette are the wrong side of 30 and young Gun Eddie Nketiah has failed to make the same first-team impact with the talents that has seen him become England U21s all-time scorer. 

To get the best out of Odegaard in the long-term, Arteta and Edu would need to sign at least one proven striker to help with finishing chances. However, without the appeal of European football they have their work cut out if they’re to upgrade the squad further in January. 

Is £30 Million a Good Deal?

Odegaard has proven his potential during various loan moves from Real Madrid over the past five seasons. In competitive senior matches, the Norwegian has made 42 assists and scored 33 goals. He is also a regular for the Norwegian national team and has 30 senior appearances and seven assists for his country.

The 2021/22 season with Arsenal will be Odegaard’s first test to prove himself as a prospect away from Real Madrid, who signed him at the age of 16. He has clear potential and the ability to improve, which must be nurtured by Arteta. 

Having a settled club will be advantageous for Odegaard, but he also needs faith from Arteta that he will be used as the first-choice number 10 or reshaped into a number 8, whether alongside or instead of Smith-Rowe. If Odegaard can get plenty of game time early in the season, he will soon adapt to the style of the Premier League and hit the ground running. 

However, there are areas in Arsenal’s attack that need to be strengthened to get the best out of Odegaard. Without a decent striker to lead the line for the long-term, the 22-year old’s impact over the course of his contract could be lessened.

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