You’ve got to wonder what Mikel Arteta put on his wish list on Christmas Eve. Since the 25th of December 2020, Arsenal has won 5 out of their 6 Premier League games, and have now secured the signature of Norwegian playmaker Martin Ødegaard. Arsenal has been one of the worst creative teams in the league recently, and the signing of Martin Ødegaard on a 6-month loan from Real Madrid will go a long way in solving that problem.
View this post on Instagram
Who is Martin Ødegaard?
Ødegaard was thrust into the limelight when he was signed by Real Madrid in January 2015, at the tender age of 16. In May 2015 he became the youngest player to ever feature for Real Madrid when he came on for Cristiano Ronaldo in the final league fixture of the season. The Norwegian then went on a series of loan spells to the Netherlands to develop his game away from the fanfare and attention that he would have received in the biggest club in the world. After 3 successful years in the Holland, Ødegaard returned to Spain and was loaned to Real Sociedad for the 2019/20 season. It was at San Sebastian, that Ødegaard started to develop into one of Europe’s finest playmakers.
He won the La Liga player of the month award in September 2019 and helped La Real to 6th in the table, booking a place for next seasons Europa League. Ødegaard returned to Real Madrid at the start of this season with the hope of breaking into the first team. Unfortunately, Ødegaard only managed three league starts all season and was not in Zidane’s plans for the near future. With Arsenal needing a creative playmaker following the departure of Ozil, and Ødegaard needing playing time, this move was an obvious fit that benefits all parties.
Martin Ødegaard’s Playing Style
Ødegaard is a creative midfielder that can play from the right-wing but is primarily used as a number 8 in a 3-man midfield or as the creative focal-point of a team in the number 10 role. Ødegaard is a player that excels between the lines, capable of receiving the ball on the half-turn and feeding it to team-mates or looking for shooting opportunities.
He created 62 chances in the La Liga last season, more than any Arsenal player managed in 2019/20 and a tally that only 4 players of his age group bettered across Europe’s top 5 leagues. Ødegaard also averaged 2 through balls and 2 key passes per game last season and his presence in Arsenal’s midfield will benefit the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette who like to run in behind defences.
Another strength of Ødegaard’s game is his dribbling, averaging nearly 10 progressive carries per 90 minutes last season for Real Sociedad, the 4th most in La Liga. What’s more impressive is that Ødegaard completes 67% of his attempted dribbles and is only dispossessed 1.9 times per 90 minutes.
The Norwegian is known for his high defensive work-rate and this will please Mikel Arteta, who requires his forwards and midfielders to press from the front and force turnovers high up the field.
How Arsenal can line up with Ødegaard in the team
Ødegaard offers Mikel Arteta various options on how he can set up the Arsenal offence. Arteta has admitted he would like Arsenal to eventually use a 4-3-3 as top teams like Liverpool and Manchester City do. In such a system Ødegaard can be used as a number 8 in the midfield three and fulfil the role David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne did at Manchester City. Nevertheless, Arteta’s current favoured formation is the 4-2-3-1 and here Ødegaard can be used in front of the midfield pivot in the number 10 role. In this role, Ødegaard would be replacing Arsenal academy product Emile Smith-Rowe who has excelled in recent weeks and been one of the keys to Arsenals revival. Ødegaard would be accompanied by Bukayo Saka on the right, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang on the left and Alexandre Lacazette through the middle.
While Ødegaard is an upgrade on Smith-Rowe, Arteta may want to have both of these creative midfielders in his side, especially against weaker teams who defend deep in a low block. In these types of games, Ødegaard could start on the right-wing, with Smith-Rowe through the middle, Saka on the left and either Aubameyang or Lacazette up top. This sort of formation gives Arsenal much-needed fluidity in the final third, where the 3 youngsters playing behind the striker can interchange positions throughout the game, finding pockets of space to exploit whenever necessary.
With Arsenal pushing for a Top 4 spot, Ødegaard could give them the boost they need before the end of the season and be the difference-maker in the Champions League race. Arsenal recently bid goodbye to another silky playmaker that had arrived from Real Madrid, and if Ødegaard can be as mesmerising as his German predecessor, the football played at the Emirates in the coming months is going to be a joy to watch.
[Image Credit: Martin Ødegaard]