Football Features

Is Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard the best playmaker in Europe?

By Will Evans | Twenty3

Published: 15:12, 1 May 2024 | Updated: 11:17, 8 May 2024

Arsenal are on the hunt for silverware — and Martin Odegaard is the maestro behind their title charge.

The Norwegian midfielder has scored eight goals and provided eight assists in the Premier League this season, to help fire Mikel Arteta’s men into first place.

With three games to go, Arsenal’s captain will now be pivotal to their chances of topping the table and ending Manchester City’s dominance.

As crunch time approaches for the Gunners, we consider if Odegaard is currently the best playmaker in Europe.

A slow start

Arsenal started this season strongly, but Odegaard took some time to hit his stride.

A propensity to shoot on sight in the campaign’s early weeks saw him create just five chances across the Gunners’ opening five matches, without registering a single big chance in those fixtures.

For context, Bukayo Saka conjured 15 opportunities over the same period, though Odegaard’s 16 shots did yield two goals for his side.

The 25-year-old put in an influential display in September’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth — registering a goal and an assist — but it was not until later in the season that he truly became Arsenal’s creative lynchpin.

Positional shift

Arteta’s decision to move Odegaard into a deeper role in late November was the catalyst for his dramatic upturn in form.

If we look exclusively at the league matches following that change, no player has racked up more assists than Odegaard’s seven — and he ranks top for both chances (77) and big chances (14) created.

The Gunners’ No.8 also sits in first place when it comes to completed final third passes (531) and through-balls (18), while an xA of 8.78 suggests he could have racked up even more assists over that period.

Arsenal’s attacking potency has, unsurprisingly, improved as a result — scoring 2.64 goals per 90 following Odegaard’s positional switch, compared with just 2.08 beforehand.

Best in Europe?

Odegaard has undoubtedly had a major impact on Arsenal’s season, but how does he compare to the continent’s best playmakers?

To an extent that depends on whether we assess his campaign as a whole, or only following his move into a deeper role.

The 57-cap international comes out favourably when reviewing the latter, but is behind Premier League contemporary Kevin De Bruyne (0.79) for assists per 90 (0.25) over the season — though the Belgian has only played 914 minutes due to injury.

Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has also created more chances (3.27 vs 2.96) and big chances (0.61 vs 0.51) per 90 than Odegaard in 2023/24.

And if we look at Europe’s elite leagues, Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz and Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Brandt have each chipped in with more assists — both in total and per 90 minutes.

It may therefore be contentious to call Odegaard the continent’s best playmaker, but he is certainly proving invaluable to title-chasing Arsenal.