Football Features

Martin Odegaard: The creative spark Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal need?

By Chris Smith

Martin Odegaard next club: The creative spark Arsenal need? | Squawka

Published: 10:18, 22 January 2021

With just three La Liga starts in 2020/21 for Real Madrid, it’s clear that Martin Ødegaard is need of a change of scenery.

A record-breaker for his exploits in the Norwegian Tippeligaen as a 15-year-old, Ødegaard caught the attention of the world when he signed for Real Madrid in January 2015 at just 16.

Since then, it’s been a story of struggle and frustration in his attempts to break into the first-team picture with Los Blancos, with Ødegaard making just 11 senior appearances for the 13-time European champions, yet to register his first goal or assist.

Ødegaard has, however, enjoyed plenty of time on the pitch during various loan spells, most impressively notching seven goals and nine assists across all competitions in a wonderful 2019/20 campaign with Real Sociedad, helping the Basque club finish sixth in La Liga.

Many had hoped this would propel the 25-time Norway international on to a regular first-team berth in Zinedine Zidane’s squad but that has simply not transpired, with Ødegaard managing just 368 minutes of action across all competitions for Real Madrid this term. Naturally, Ødegaard is now being linked with a move away from the Spanish champions and, given that he is still only 22, would represent great value for whoever can secure his signature.

Martin Odegaard’s next club?

Sky reported on Thursday that Arsenal had made another approach for Ødegaard, having already been knocked back once. With the seventh-lowest goal tally (23) in the Premier League, the Gunners are desperately short in the final third, with a lack of creativity only adding to the loss of class and confidence suffered by their strikers this season.

Mikel Arteta left long-time creative force Mesut Ozil out of his squad for the 2020/21 campaign and the former Germany international has now completed a move to Turkish giants, Fenerbahce. As such, Ødegaard would fit the profile of Arteta’s squad perfectly, with Arsenal fielding the fourth-youngest starting XI of any side in the English top-flight this season, with an average age of 26.2 years old.

What’s more, Ødegaard performed at an elite level when it came to chance creation, dribbling and pressing in the final third at Sociedad last season. Given how much influence Arteta takes from Pep Guardiola’s style of play, these characteristics make him a very attractive prospect for the Gunners.

However, Spanish football expert Guillem Balague believes that if Ødegaard is to leave Real Madrid during the current window, it will be in the form of another loan move to Real Sociedad.

“He wants to go to Real Sociedad and they want him,” said Balague. “They’re waiting on Real Madrid’s decision.”

Ødegaard hasn’t made an appearance of any sort since a five-minute cameo in a 2-0 home win over Celta Vigo at the start of January and Balague believes the former Strømsgodset man may be at odds with Zidane.

“Since 1 December he’s played only five minutes,” Balague told BBC Sport. “He played against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on that date then he got an injury and was out for three games. But he has barely featured since.

“There are some pictures of Zidane losing his cool because he didn’t pressure in one incident and didn’t track back in a game they won, so the suggestion is he’s not at the level defensively that Zidane wants.

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“It goes back to this idea that Zidane doesn’t do well with youngsters and their development. That has disappointed Real Madrid.

“The question is whether Real’s loss to third division Alcoyano on Wednesday changes anything. Before that game, they had decided to let Odegaard go. The decision is just where he goes to.”

Alongside Sociedad, Balague is adamant Arsenal may face competition from other Premier League clubs, too, though he would still prefer to return to the club where he enjoyed so much success last season.

“Arsenal are not the only Premier League club who have made enquiries about him but he would like to go back to Real Sociedad,” the Spaniard said. “The adaptation process will be easier there and all he wants is to play.”


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