As widely reported, Arsenal are on the verge of signing Martin Ødegaard.
Why does a short term loan deal make sense?
Whether we get Champions League football or not, I’m expecting a summer of huge spending. I think we’ll see one mega transfer in that creative attacking midfield position – whether it is Jack Grealish, Houssem Aouar, or someone else, it is too premature to call.
The way Arsenal are operating and the vibes I get talking to journalists and people with contacts is we don’t want to compromise on our number one target and commit funds this window on someone who may be lower down the list. It all adds up.
As a result, Arsenal started exploring loans for the creative attacking midfield position this window – basically, someone who can fill in and provide that extra option.
Emile Smith Rowe has changed Arsenal’s fortunes this season – from 5 points above the relegation zone, we’re now 7 points off 4th place. ESR has shown that he’s not here to take part, he’s here to take over. Three assists and a goal in his last 6 appearances for a 20-year-old is impressive.
It must be noted, however, that this is a player who has had his fair share of fitness issues, and to rely just on him playing 3 competitions would be reckless. This is exactly where Ødegaard can come in.
Ødegaard’s career path thus far:
The Norwegian international started his senior career at the tender age of 15 with Strømsgodset, which is extremely rare, leading to him being named in Time magazine’s top 30 most influential list of teenagers in 2015. Naturally, some of the biggest clubs in Europe came calling, with Real Madrid securing his services.
After stints at Real Madrid Castilla and Heerenveen, it was at Eredivisie club Vitesse Arnhem that Ødegaard first made a name for himself in the 2018/19 season, scoring 8 goals and providing 10 assists in just 31 appearances.
Ødegaard then took the next step in his career by going out on loan to Real Sociedad. He enjoyed a fantastic season at San Sebastian, scoring 7 goals and providing 9 assists – averaging a goal or assist every 183 minutes. As a result, Real Madrid decided to keep him this season.
However, he has fallen out of favor with Zinedine Zidane and is at an age where he must play regular football. Arsenal represents an interesting opportunity for him to come to London and test himself at Premier League level.
Where will he Ødegaard play for Arsenal?
If you look through Ødegaard’s heatmaps from his time at Vitesse and Real Sociedad, it indicates that he was typically deployed from the right-hand side with the freedom to move into those half spaces and sometimes as a number 10.
If Smith Rowe continues playing which I think will be the case, there are 2 possibilities – Ødegaard can be used from the right, or as a number 10 with Smith Rowe being deployed on the left.
There’s been talk amongst the fans about the possibility of using both Smith Rowe and Ødegaard in central midfield, like the way Manchester City used De Bruyne and David Silva in the past – personally, I just can’t see it. We have some way to go to play that type of system in the Premier League.
Whilst Ødegaard has excellent technical attributes and interprets space nicely, he also averaged 2 successful dribbles per game in La Liga last season which is higher than what any Arsenal player managed in the Premier League this season.
The final verdict:
It is not a shame to be out of favor at Real Madrid. When Mesut Özil joined Arsenal for example, he wasn’t a guaranteed starter under Carlo Ancelotti. The standards are incredibly high and the fact of the matter is there are many instances of fringe players at Real Madrid making it elsewhere.
Ødegaard also has a point to prove – he is desperate for game time as he seeks to prove his doubters wrong and live up to the expectations he had on his shoulders at 15 years of age.
While Real Madrid still see the player as part of their future, maybe, just maybe if Ødegaard does end up having a good stint at Arsenal in the next few months, his head could be swayed towards North London in the long term. It is worth remembering he is still 22 years of age and will only get better.
I can’t see any other better options on loan at this stage – the likes of Isco and Christian Eriksen have been mentioned, but neither of those 2 fills you with a sense of excitement the way Ødegaard does.
All in all, it is a transfer that ticks every box at this moment in time and you have to say well-done Arsenal!