Arsenal’s hunt for a new creative midfielder was a major talking point of the summer transfer window.
The Gunners were strongly interested in signing James Maddison from Leicester City, but Mikel Arteta wanted to bring Martin Odegaard in on a permanent basis after spending the second half of last season on loan at the Emirates Stadium.
The 22-year-old midfielder impressed in the latter stages of the last campaign and with his future at Real Madrid far from certain, Arsenal took advantage and signed him for around £30million.
So far this season, it has not been the ideal start to life with the Gunners, with the Norway international starting just six games in the Premier League.
Odegaard hasn’t been named in the starting XI since beating Crystal Palace last month, with the Norwegian coming on in each of the last three games for brief cameos.
Arteta, despite Arsenal’s impressive turnaround in form as the season has progressed, is reportedly keen to bolster his attacking options in the upcoming transfer windows, with Raheem Sterling of Manchester City being strongly linked.
According to a report from the Daily Star last month, Arsenal are ‘keeping tabs’ on the England international, who sees his contract at Man City expire at the end of next season, with talks over a new deal moving ‘slowly’ as it stands.
Sterling, like Odegaard, has struggled to get himself on the pitch on a consistent basis this term, with the 26-year-old starting just three matches in the Premier League to date.
Arteta is said to be a ‘huge admirer’ of the former Liverpool star, with the two having an ‘excellent relationship’ during the Arsenal manager’s days of working as the number two to Pep Guardiola in Manchester.
However, the Premier League champions are likely to demand a reported £80m for Sterling – something that could put Arsenal off pursuing a move for the Englishman, but Odegaard may already be the man to save the Gunners millions.
This season, via football statistics database FBRef, Odegaard has made 85 progressive passes in total, which averages at 4.64 per 90 minutes, a stat that is far superior to Sterling’s. The Manchester City forward has made 25 progressive passes, 60 less than Odegaard’s number, which averages at 2.42 per 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Arsenal star does arguably suit Arteta’s passing style of play more, with 55.26 (per 90) passes attempted and a 99% success rate throughout the campaign. Sterling, though, averages far less than Odegaard, with the England and City star posting 38.56 (per 90) passes attempted and a 96% success rate.
As far as goals scored goes, the duo are equal, with both Odegaard and Sterling finding the back of the net on one occasion in the Premier League this term.
There is plenty more to come from Odegaard this season, but the aforementioned stats are two very important ones – especially for Arsenal in the way they play in the final third.
His return to the Gunners may be pretty underwhelming for supporters so far, but there is no doubting the former Real Madrid man’s technical ability and work-rate off-the-ball, something crucial in Arteta’s ideology.
When speaking about the Norway star recently, Arteta called on Odegaard to improve his game in order to unleash his full potential in north London.
When asked if he needed to see more in the way of end product from Odegaard, the Arsenal boss said: “Absolutely.
“All the players that are playing in the attacking line have to contribute at the maximum level that is required to achieve the numbers that you need to be the best team in the league. If you don’t, then it’s just maths. You won’t get there.”
Arsenal travel to Liverpool on Saturday evening, but it appears unlikely Odegaard will be involved from the start at Anfield considering his lack of game time recently.
His work-rate, though, off-the-ball, may be something Arteta looks at when choosing his side, with Liverpool expected to have plenty of possession on their home turf.