Martin Odegaard’s parting gift to Arsenal and the crucial role he can play for Mikel Arteta

In a thrilling goal-fest like the one between West Ham United and Arsenal on Sunday, you can normally guarantee that one of the several goalscorers from the match will scoop up the man of the match award.

Yet, even with a number of strong performances from goalscorers like Alexandre Lacazette and West Ham’s Jesse Lingard, it was the dazzling display of Martin Odegaard that persuaded Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher to award it to the Arsenal man at full-time.

It wasn’t an easy afternoon for the Gunners in East London after a disastrous start saw them 3-0 down after 32 minutes. However, it was Odegaard, the 22-year-old who arrived in North London only in January, who led the revival.

“I think he had an incredible performance, he was very intelligent the way he read the game, the way he affected the game and again he showed how much he wants to win. When everyone was a little bit trembling, he gave us that composure on the ball,” said Mikel Arteta afterwards.

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It felt as though every attack went through the youngster and at full-time, only deep-lying midfielder Thomas Partey (103) managed more touches than Odegaard’s 91. The Norwegian also topped the charts in terms of successful dribbles made and progressive carries towards the West Ham goal.

Whilst he was the key instigator behind Arsenal’s attacks, he was denied neither a goal nor an assist himself. Yet on another day that could have been different. He attempted three shots, each of which was thwarted by good blocks from West Ham defenders.

He made three passes leading directly to a shot on goal and was successful in seven of his nine attempted passes into the penalty area. One of these balls of course proved crucial in Arsenal drawing level after he threaded a perfectly weighted pass to the overlapping Nicolas Pepe who crossed the ball towards Lacazette to head home.

The Real Madrid loanee has found the back of the net twice already in the form of a beautiful strike from distance vs Olympiacos and a crucial equaliser in the victory over Tottenham. Assists in an Arsenal shirt, however, have thus far evaded him, but yet, his creative influence on the side can’t be questioned.

Odegaard has the highest average in terms of SCA90 this season
Odegaard has the highest average in terms of SCA90 this season

As highlighted above, Odegaard has the best Premier League shot-creating average across the whole Arsenal squad this season with 4.75 per 90.

According to FBref, a shot-creating action (SCA90) is defined as one of two actions that lead directly to a shot on goal, such as a dribble, pass or drawing a foul.

He’s obviously benefited from having a smaller sample of minutes in comparison to some of Arsenal’s other key creative sparks who have played significantly more matches this season, yet this does highlight just how effective he’s been so far with the club.

It’s additionally worth noting that average actually ranks as the fifth-highest across the whole Premier League.

Based on the above and under different circumstances, Arsenal would be fighting tooth and nail to make the move permanent in the summer.

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Yet, the 22-year-old is locked into a contract with Real Madrid that runs until 2023, and the release clause on that contract stands at a ludicrous £301million.

Therefore it’s hard to get enlivened by any realistic prospect of him staying beyond this summer.

Still though, with more performances like the one on Sunday, he’s a player Arsenal fans can in the immediate saviour and enjoy. Furthermore, his influence between now and the end of the season could be crucial in Arteta’s men making a late charge towards a European spot, and perhaps his parting gift will be helping them achieve this goal.

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