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Loan star Odegaard primed to fill creative void for Gunners


Martin Odegaard. Photo: Reuters

Martin Odegaard. Photo: Reuters

Martin Odegaard. Photo: Reuters

Just a few days after saying farewell to the playmaker they took from Real Madrid, Arsenal have gone back to the Spanish giants and are on the brink of signing another one. Out goes Mesut Ozil and in comes Martin Odegaard, a similarly prodigious creative talent and one who bears more than a few resemblances to his German predecessor.

A left-footed No 10 with an eye for a pass, Odegaard plays with a guile that will be familiar to those who have watched Ozil over the years. He searches for those same half-spaces in the final third, often drifting into the inside right position, and looks to play the same type of defence-splitting passes that Ozil would regularly produce at his peak.

Arsenal's hope is that Odegaard will therefore help to fill some of the creative void that has existed since Ozil's exclusion from Mikel Arteta's team. The original plan was that Willian, signed from Chelsea in the summer, might help in this regard. Halfway through the season, it is safe to say that has not worked out.

In recent weeks Arsenal have instead relied on young Emile Smith Rowe to shoulder much of the creative burden, and he has excelled. A 20-year-old cannot be asked to lead the attack every week, though. He needs help, and Arsenal need more ideas in the final third. A creative playmaker has been their primary target for this window, and Odegaard, who is joining on loan until the end of the season, is arguably the most exciting option that was available to them.

Despite those similarities with Ozil, Odegaard is not the same player. Off the ball, especially, the Norwegian will be expected to offer a significantly greater level of energy and work rate.

"Martin can play in every team because he is one of the guys and he does his job," says Johnny Jansen, Odegaard's coach during his loan spell at Heerenveen in 2017-'18.

"He works very hard for the team. He is more a guy who wants to work hard and be one of the guys, not the No 10 who is on a platform and everybody has to work for him. He does not want to be the star. That is not who he is."

At 22, Odegaard is 10 years younger than Ozil. He also arrives with a point to prove after being sidelined by Real Madrid in the past few months.

Odegaard has started just five matches this season, which will raise concerns about his readiness to make an impact. The last thing Arsenal want is a repeat of the dreadful Denis Suarez loan in January 2019. But if Odegaard can replicate the form he showed on loan at Real Sociedad last season, he could be a game-changing addition to Arteta's side.

A teenage prodigy, who made his Norway debut at the age of 15, Odegaard has needed time to reach a point where he is considered ready for Premier League football. He has had loan spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse Arnhem and Sociedad, growing in stature in each season. Last season, at Sociedad, he was one of La Liga's most effective creative talents. Only five players created more chances, and one of those was Lionel Messi.

In recent seasons Odegaard has worked on building strength, so he should be able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League. If he can adjust quickly, he could be the man to set Arsenal's attackers free.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]