Football News

Tottenham will be talking about Martin Odegaard ahead of Arsenal clash – Alan Smith

By Harry Edwards

Published: 11:00, 25 April 2024 | Updated: 13:50, 26 April 2024

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith spoke to Squawka about this weekend’s North London Derby clash against Tottenham.

Smith picked out Martin Odegaard as the man Ange Postecoglou will need to focus on when planning his team and spoke about the importance of Arsenal leaving the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with victory on Sunday.

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He also spoke about Arsenal’s links to Alexander Isak, their standing in the title race, Cole Palmer vs Bukayo Saka and Leicester’s imminent promotion back to the Premier League.

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Arsenal are now four points clear of Man City after their 5-0 win over Chelsea. How important is it for Arsenal to have the points on the board at this stage in the title race – as opposed to Man City who are now playing catchup?

If you’re in that position, you’ve got to take advantage of it and get the points on the board, which is so far, so good for Arsenal with Wolves and especially last night.

And if they can do it again on Sunday then all the better. Whether that would faze City, I have my doubts. But it does crank up the pressure a little bit. They know that they’ve got to win and try to make up that gap. So you’re just asking the question and that’s all you can do.

Obviously it’s in City’s hands but you’ve got to do everything you possibly can to push them. And at the moment, Arsenal are doing that.

With key battles across the pitch, where do you think the North London Derby will be won on Sunday?

[Martin] Odegaard is at the heart of everything that’s been good about Arsenal lately, and most of the season to be honest. And Spurs will be talking about him, how to get tight, how to stop him making Arsenal tick. Because if he gets on the ball and starts threading those little passes through and the movement obviously off the ball is great, then Spurs might have problems. So that’s definitely an area.

The Spurs full-backs do bomb on, and at times maybe there’ll be gaps behind for [Leandro] Trossard and [Bukayo] Saka you’d imagine. But Odegaard would be at the forefront of [Ange] Postecoglou’s thoughts going into it.

Arsenal are looking to win back-to-back away games against Tottenham for the first time since 1988. How important is it for Arsenal fans that they reassert their dominance in this fixture?

Beating Spurs is always a big thing, that match is always huge on the calendar. For Arsenal, yeah beating Spurs would taste sweet but obviously even sweeter given the circumstances and the title chase.

So it’s another stepping stone. It’s a big one and it carries with it all that emotion and rivalry from down the years. The atmosphere will be fantastic. But at the end of the day it’s another three points Arsenal will be hoping to grab and keep this run going.

Over the past few months a lot has been made about Arsenal’s lack of a striker stopping them from becoming title winners. Do you think their lack of a striker has hurt them at times this season?

There’ll always be times when a club will struggle to score goals, no matter who they’ve got. City with [Erling] Haaland have sometimes struggled to create chances and score. In an ideal world yeah, it would be lovely to have a top class centre forward. I’m sure [Mikel] Arteta would want to bring one into the club. Financially, that’s always the question and can you get the right type of player?

They’re very switched on, him and Edu, and on the same page in terms of who they want and they plan ahead. They’ll have a few names there. But it does come down to money. It would be nice to maybe have a slightly different style to the players that they’ve got. Slightly different to [Kai] Havertz and [Gabriel] Jesus. But we’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of business Arsenal are able to do in the summer.

Arsenal are being linked with a summer move for Alexander Isak. Is he the right sort of striker Arsenal need to be going for?

Oh yeah. He’s a big talent. If you could get hold of him, that would be a real coup. I mean, Newcastle would be loathed to sell him because it was an inspired signing by them. And obviously they want to go places, and with Financial Fair Play we know that they might have to sell to buy. But would they want to sell one of the crown jewels? You’d think not, so we’ll have to wait and see.

A lot of comparisons are being made between Cole Palmer, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden ahead of the Euros this summer. Do you think Cole Palmer is a threat to Bukayo Saka’s place in England’s starting XI for the tournament?

What he’s done, he’s come a long way quickly, and you would never have thought he would be able to come up alongside Saka in [Gareth] Southgate’s thoughts. Saka has obviously got that international experience and tournament experience, which does count for a lot when you’re away in these big matches.

So I think Saka would still be ahead in that regard, but we’ve seen it so many times haven’t we? Going into a tournament, somebody drops out with an injury and it’s vital that you have back up. And England have got quality back up in a lot of those forward positions, so it’s great news for Southgate.

With two games left to go Leicester look in a strong position to secure automatic promotion back to the Premier League. Just how important is it for the club to get that immediate return?

Yeah, of course. Bouncing back straight away, you’ve got the parachute payments to assist you, it’s really important. Obviously there’s the cloud on the horizon about potential points being deducted by the Premier League but Leicester can only cross that bridge when they come to it. And it was an emphatic statement last night against one of the other contenders for promotion.

So they’re nearly there, they had that really awful run and you were just thinking the wheels had come off, they’re going to blow it. But hopefully they’ll be fine now.

If promotion is secured this season, are there any positions you feel Leicester need to strengthen in to ensure they become Premier League regulars again?

I think in central defence, Wout Faes and [Jannik] Vestergaard, I think that partnership would struggle in the Premier League. They’ve got some good midfielders, [Kiernan] Dewsbury-Hall being amongst them, Wilfred Ndidi, they’ve got Premier League experience there, with the full-backs as well.

Through the middle, Jamie Vardy, whether he’s going to finish at the end of the season we’ll see. But they probably need another central striker. It’s been difficult for them to do it, [Kelechi] Iheanacho came in and he couldn’t do it. Patson Daka hasn’t really been able to do it. So that would be another area, definitely.

Alan Smith was speaking to Squawka on behalf of Crypto Casino.