Arsenal hails “tremendous” Odegaard, explained why Pepe absence… Arsenal’s manager, Mikel Arteta agrees that Martin Odegaard is closing in on his best form and says the midfielder is a natural leader.
Meanwhile, signed from Real Madrid on a permanent basis at the end of August, the Norway international netted an important winner against Burnley in his third appearance of the season only to go off the boil as a disjointed pre-season seemed to catch up with him.
Three goals in four games and a very tidy performance against West Ham United on Wednesday appear to have drawn a line under his struggles and he now looks to be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Having spent £34 million on the 23-year-old, Arteta is enthused that the player is delivering on his potential.
“He’s very, very young but he’s already had a lot of experience in different clubs, in international football,” he said ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Leeds.
“I agree that in the last few weeks he’s getting very close to his best level. The ceiling for him, I don’t know where it is, with the talent that he has, the desire that he has, how much he wants to always improve and get better. We’ve got a tremendous player there.”
Captain of his country, it’s been suggested that Odegaard could be one of the candidates to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should Mikel Arteta decide the club needs someone to take the armband on a permanent basis. He spoke in glowing terms about the player’s character last season and nothing has changed.
“He is a natural leader<‘ said Arteta. “If you look for the perfect professional, he wouldn’t be very far from that.”
While Odegaard has been getting minutes dovetailing with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli, the club’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe, has been stuck on the bench wondering when he might next kick a ball in anger.
The Ivory Coast international, who is due to go to the African Cup of Nations at the end of the month, has featured for just 13 minutes in the Premier League since mid-October.
“Obviously with the number of games we have got, there’s not enough room for all those players,” said Arteta.
“With Nico’s situation, it’s something similar. I’ve highlighted on many occasions it’s (based) on what I see every day. That’s with Nico as well. But he needs more opportunities to show what he can do and in the last few games, he hasn’t had them.”
Arteta was also sympathetic to those asking why the attacker hasn’t had more chances to play given his half-decent contribution last season.
“I have to try to make that decision on what I see every single day,” he said. “And to be fair, Nico is really willing and really willing to help the team. The reality is that the position he plays, Bukayo has been playing regularly there and he’s been fantastic. So it’s not been easy for him to find that time.”