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Martin Odegaard & Arsenal’s Summer of Youth


Arsenal are on the verge of signing Martin Odegaard on a permanent deal from Real Madrid, after an agreement on a €35 million fee with potential add-ons was agreed on Wednesday. The 22-year-old playmaker is reportedly signing a four-year contract until 2025, with a club option for a fifth year.

This signing is, in my opinion, the best business Arsenal have done all summer and continues the ‘Summer of Youth’ that has appeared this transfer window. Despite his age, Odegaard comes to Arsenal as a highly experienced player, who is already captain of his national team squad and has flashes of elite talent with room to develop into a world class attacking midfielder.

During his 6-month loan spell with the Gunners, Odegaard proved to be a valuable player for Mikel Arteta, scoring two goals (including in a North London Derby) and provided two assists. Odegaard provided a much needed boost of creativity in a side that were 11th in the league at the time of his arrival.

Odegaard’s Fit

Odegaard operates primarily in the central midfield zone, while often drifting slightly off to the right. Since Arsenal are heavily reliant on Kieran Tierney’s overlapping runs as a focal point of their attack, Arteta can employ Emile Smith Rowe as well- who often drifts centrally from the left side.

This partnership between Odegaard and Smith Rowe is beneficial to the arsenal attack not only by giving Kieran Tierney more space and passing options, but by adding another primary creator to the front four in attack. As was in the opener against Brentford, Arsenal cannot deploy a front four that only has one primary creator- the attack becomes too imbalanced with not enough chance creation.

The relationship between Thomas Partey and Odegaard also developed a nice partnership throughout the end of last season. In arguably the most exciting match of the season against Aston Villa, Partey played multiple passes directly to Odegaard centrally, where Odegaard displayed his ability to turn away from pressure and push the Arsenal attack forward quickly.

In fact, Odegaard was second in the premier league, behind only Kevin De Bruyne, in ‘Expected Threat’ which just shows how good Odegaard can be at providing goal scoring opportunities for his teammates. The Arsenal attack could certainly use a big boost of threat if you ask me.

Bigger Picture

Arsenal entered the summer in desperate need of a rebuild after back-to-back seasons finishing 8th in the Premier League. Arsenal have now spent five consecutive seasons without Champions League football and are now out of Europe entirely. A dramatic fall like this does not happen overnight, but by making consistently bad, short term mistakes.

When Arsenal first missed out on top 4, the signings of aging players were justified as they were just short-term fixes to get the team back into the Champions league. When those aging players, on huge wages, did not perform to expectations, the club doubled down on another round of short-term thinking transfers and here we are. It was less than a year ago that the club had to buy out the contracts of multiple players simply to get them out of the dressing room, something that they still may need to do this summer just to remedy past mistakes- which were mostly (not all) made under a previous regime.

Despite the fans’ apparent disproval of Arsenal’s technical director Edu, there are two clear trends in the summer transfer policy which signal a positive change in the right direction.

The Summer of Youth

So far, Arsenal have signed the following players:

Ben White (23)

Albert Sambi Lokonga (21)

Nuno Tavares (21)

Martin Odegaard (22)

Aaron Ramsdale (23) **Not Yet Announced, but likely**

Add this to the contract extension for Emile Smith Rowe and Arsenal have built a core group of players, all under the age of 24, who are all extremely promising talents and will be at the club for potentially 5+ years.

Future Leaders

Since his arrival, Mikel Arteta has stressed the importance of ‘non-negotiables’ and has shown he values leadership and commitment through his team selections, especially for big matches. The transfer business has reflected such. Lokonga was the captain at his previous club at just 21 years old, and Odegaard is currently the captain for Norway. These soft factors may not matter much to fans, but they matter to a manager, and are even more important for a club in limbo like Arsenal.

Not only are Arsenal reshaping the talent on the pitch, but they are reshaping the leaders in the dressing room for the future.

It is no secret that Arsenal have needed to rebuild through an infusion of young talent for years. Gone are the short-term fixes that have plagued the club. The rebuild is beginning, Arsenal are slowly adding more talent to their core team; slowly but surely upgrading each position on the pitch.

Fans must be patient, the rebuild will not be complete overnight- let alone this transfer window, but the club should be praised for the moves it has made so far. I am excited to see what this group of players can do and to watch them develop over the years into a hopeful title contender in the years to come.

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