In Focus: How in-form Odegaard has proven the Real deal for Arsenal
Arsenal have not always been top of the class when it comes to playing the transfer market — but the Gunners have struck gold with the loan signing of Martin Odegaard.
Real Madrid’s Norwegian prodigy has transformed Mikel Arteta’s midfield since arriving in January, reigniting Arsenal’s attacking play alongside young stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
As the Gunners get set to face Slavia Prague in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tonight, we look at Odegaard’s impact in North London and whether he could be set for a permanent move to the capital this summer.
A chance creator
Odegaard has featured in nine Premier League matches for Arteta’s men and has created an average of 1.6 chances per 90 minutes.
While not spectacular (36 top-flight players have a better record than the Norwegian), that is more than Saka (1.26) and Nicolas Pepe (0.55) — though, perhaps surprisingly, fewer than Willian (1.8), who is perceived to have been a flop at the Emirates.
Smith Rowe leads the way at Arsenal when it comes to creating opportunities, conjuring up 1.99 per 90 minutes, but Odegaard has made a significant contribution since swapping the Spanish capital for Islington.
The pass master
Though directly assisting team-mates is a part of Odegaard’s game — he contributed six LaLiga assists for Real Sociedad last season — his best work is often done in deeper positions.
The 22-year-old has been key to linking play between Arsenal's central midfielders and Hector Bellerin and Saka down the right flank.
His 91.51% passing accuracy sees him rank inside the Premier League’s top 10 players — but the one-time wonderkid is not simply maintaining possession for the sake of it.
Odegaard has completed an average of 19.95 passes into the final third per 90 minutes, which is only bettered by 11 players in England’s top flight.
Winning back possession
Odegaard’s reputation is built on his prowess with the ball — but his ability to win back possession has been just as notable since joining Arsenal.
He has won possession in the final third 0.96 times per 90 this term, which places him inside the division’s top 20 performers for that metric.
While not his primary function in Arsenal's midfield, this element of Odegaard’s game has enhanced their ability to pressure opposition defences high up the pitch and regain the ball in dangerous areas.
Permanent move on the cards?
Arsenal’s only regret about Odegaard's loan deal will be that it does not include a clause to sign him permanently.
When asked about that possibility last week, Arteta said: "I speak with him every day. I see his face, his body language and he seems really happy right now here.
"Our contract with him is until the end of the season. What we have to do is try to make him perform, develop and be as happy as he can be."
A deal to be done
Odegaard is believed to be open to the possibility of staying at the Emirates beyond this summer — but there appears to be no desire on the player’s part to force a move away from Madrid.
Much will come down to whether Real manager Zinedine Zidane sees the 28-cap Norwegian international as part of his plans for 2021-22, as well as the Spanish outfit’s desire to raise capital for a potential summer spending spree.
Whether it is a permanent transfer or another loan, Arsenal will be surely doing everything possible to keep Odegaard at the club for next season and beyond.