In December 2014 Martin Ødegaard came to Arsenal as a 16-year-old kid – the most exciting young player at the time. He trained with the Gunners for a week but the calling from the world’s biggest club and European champions at the time was hard for the 16-year-old to turn down.
Six years later, Martin came back last season on a six-month loan spell and shone brightly in the limited opportunities that came his way. In 14 starts, the Norwegian managed to score two goals and provided two assists. But just like his predecessor, Mesut Özil, Ødegaard in his short stint has divided a lot of opinions. While some rate his ability on the ball, some despise his very presence in an Arsenal shirt.
And finally, after what felt like Carlsen and Kasparov tussling on a board of chess, the two clubs have come to an agreement, Ødegaard has put pen to paper and will be an Arsenal player by the end of this week. It is believed that the fee in agreement is around that £30m region, plus add-ons. The Norwegian captain has signed on a five-year deal that will see him at the Emirates till 2026.
WHY IS HE ARTETA’S #1 CHOICE?
It was no secret that Ødegaard was a popular player in the locker room, and it was his creativity and vision alongside Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka that helped bring the best out of his teammates as Arsenal won their last five Premier League games of what was a disappointing season.
The sale of Joe Willock to Newcastle is believed to be the extra push in terms of finances to get the deal done. Having made 20 (6 subs) appearances in his six-month loan spell, resulting in two goals, and recording the highest xA and key passes per 90 of any other Arsenal player, it makes sense why both Mikel Arteta and Edu Gaspar see him as a better option than James Maddison. Certainly more financially viable.
Many of the Arsenal fanbase had their hopes set on Maddison from Leicester but in Ødegaard, they have someone who is just as good, younger, and significantly cheaper. Another key point about this deal is that Arsenal is getting Ødegaard for less than what Aston Villa paid for Emiliano Buendía. Considering Arsenal “missed out” on him (as the media would label it, which they didn’t), that adds to the allure. They weren’t going to pay more than what they offered for the Argentine.
While Ødegaard is not the shiny new toy that many Arsenal fans wanted, he is a solid addition to the north London side. He boasts plenty of potential, a huge ceiling and it’s very easy to forget he is still only 22 years old and the captain of his national side.
Last season, he completed 86.4% of his passes in the league, had an xA of 0.22/per 90, and made more passes into the penalty box (1.88/per 90) than all bar Willian. So if Arsenal’s frontmen were slightly more prolific, which they hopefully will be this season, Ødegaard’s numbers can only rise.
On top of that, he did this while acclimating to a new league and country mid-season as well as dealing with an ankle injury. With his age, the deal only gets better the more you delve into it. It seems that Arsenal did not pay over the odds in getting this deal done and what it can do now is still leave funds for other targets.
Sheffield United’s #1 Aaron Ramsdale is still the Gunners’ top target, but another name that has not gone away is midfielder Houssem Aouar from Lyon. Whether or not the Gunners will pursue him is another thing, but the club could cash in on the French side’s financial issues and get him at a bargain price.
Arsenal are hoping that Ødegaard will be available for this weekend’s clash with Chelsea, and although there is still a bit to play out with this deal, he is in London having completed his medical last night. It has moved rather quickly in recent days, and should he be eligible to play – if Arsenal can register him by midday on Friday, then it would be a welcome boost to Arteta and his side.