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What Would Martin Ødegaard bring to Arsenal?


After yet another difficult first half to the season, one major deficiency has become evident at Arsenal – creativity.  Arsenal’s lack of creativity, flair and precise incision, has prevented the Gunners from turning their possession into meaningful contributions.

With the emergence of  Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal have seemingly found their ideal long-term number 10. However, at just 20 years of age, time must be taken, both biologically, technically and psychologically and short-term cover is needed.

In recent months, 22 year old Martin Ødegaard’s name has been constantly linked with Arsenal and with a deal seemingly imminent, this report will see what Odegaard can offer Arsenal.

Given his lack game time this season, the report will focus more on his outstanding 2019/20 campaign at Real Sociedad, rather than this season with Real Madrid.


After joining Real Madrid at just 16 years of age, Ødegaard had a difficult time at the club, bouncing between the Castilla team (with then manager Zinedine Zidane) and the first team (managed by Carlo Ancelotti). After loan a loan spell with Heerenveen in 2017/18 and Vitesse in 2018/19, Ødegaard joined Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad in 2019/20 and began to show the stardom, that Madid predicted from him.

In 36 appearances in all competitions, Ødegaard scored 7 goals and assisted a further 9 times. At Sociedad, Ødegaard mainly played as a number 10, and on the right of a midfield 3. The left footer regularly influenced the game creating 2.19 key passes per 90 minutes, in his 2806 minutes of action

This season, despite Zidane working with the Norwegian when he joined from Strømsgodset IF in 2015 and personally calling him to return from his initial 2 year loan at Real Sociedad early, he has not featured as much has he would have liked, playing 9 games and 367 minutes across all competitions. Largely, a calf and a secondary muscle injury have kept him out 10 matches this season. Ødegaard only missed 3 games through injury at Sociedad and even reportedly played through the pain at times.


For Sociedad, Ødegaard either played as the right sided midfielder in a 4-3-3, or as a 10 in a 4-2-3-1. For Real Madrid, Ødegaard has again played as a 10 in a 4-2-3-1.

In Ødegaard’s best professional season at Real Sociedad, Sociedad focused their play on diagonal movement. They sought to move the ball as fast as possible from one wing to the other, with incision and accuracy. The aim was to catch the opposition flat or out of position. This allowed Sociedad to create 1v1’s with their wingers against the fullbacks/wingbacks, maximising favourable body positioning. This is something that Arteta would appreciate, with the way Arsenal play.

Given Ødegaard’s favoured foot being his left, he enjoyed operating in the right half-channel. From there he could cut in and play aerial or ground diagonal passes for his teammates. When Ødegaard was in the midfield three, Sociedad would move a winger, often Portu, to join William Jose as a front two. This afforded Ødegaard more time and space between the lines. The back four would then be occupied and unable to press out to Ødegaard. Out of possession, Ødegaard would help form either a 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1.

When playing as a number 10, in possession, very little changes. Ødegaard still drops deeper to receive and continues to pull into the right half-space, opening his body up, to play diagonals. Tactically, out of possession, Ødegaard would join the striker and Sociedad would press in a mid-high block 4-4-2. This is similar to Arsenal’s approach.

What Would Martin Ødegaard bring to Arsenal?

This image shows Ødegaard coming inside from his favoured right half-space. From here, he can see the full picture and play diagonally between the lines, or commit opposition defenders. From this position, he can also find the Sociedad fullback, who is 1v1, with his opponent. He always tries to get his head up.

In Possession

In possession, Ødegaard shows phenomenal technical ability. His skill, trickery and vision allows him to unlock the tightest of defences. Additionally, his ability to deliver pin point set-pieces, either striking directly at goal, or playing the ball into a dangerous area, will surely rival Saka. Ødegaard is a player who will not run in behind an oppositions defence, but  come short for the ball. This can provide difficulties with overcrowding and the loss of a good opportunity. However, when coordinated well with his team-mates, Ødegaard’s vision and execution, allows for him to pick out the most precise pass. His awareness of who is around him, allows him to almost always make the correct decision.

As previously mentioned, Ødegaard is not going to get into lots of goal scoring positions. This is shown through his 3.41 expected goals (scoring 4), from his 50 shots. Of his 50 shots, 16 have been on target, with 14 blocked. Ødegaard has set-up chances worth an expected goals of 7.68 (assisting 6). Ødegaard really shines in his sheer quantity of passes. Out of his 1507 passes, he completed 85%. This is complemented by his intelligence in finding space and offering an option for a teammate. Furthermore, Ødegaard has had an expected goals chain per 90 of 0.49, which was bettered only by 4 other players. His contribution in idle spells of possession was also notable, recording an expected goals build-up of 0.29, which was the highest of any Real Sociedad player last season. This just goes to show Ødegaard’s efficiency and effectiveness in possession for his side.

Out of Possession

Either in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, Ødegaard is comfortable dropping into midfield and helping the defensive organisation of the team. He is aware of when to drop and help form a midfield 5 and when to provide defensive cover for a teammate, or protect the weak side, in the event of a switch of play. Ødegaard’s intelligence was utilised in creating traps for opponents. Often Ødegaard would seemingly prematurely break from the midfield ranks, showing space inside. This allowed an opponent to dribble into the Sociedad shape, only to be met with a crunching tackle from a Sociedad defensive midfielder. Ødegaard could then receive the ball ahead of the opposition midfield lines and attack the space on the counter attack.

Ødegaard understandably is not a midfield destroyer, but is no light weight either. For Sociedad last season, Ødegaard made 54 tackle attempts, completing 50%. Additionally, in the counter press, Ødegaard is very hard working in closing down his opponent, cutting passing lanes and using his cover shadow, to force the ball out wide. For Madrid, Ødegaard has looked a little lost in the press, being unsure of his exact instructions, which is more down to Zidane rather than him.


In conclusion, Ødegaard would provide very good cover and competition for Emile Smith-Rowe. It would be interesting to see how Mikel Arteta adapted his tactical set-up, given Ødegaard’s natural tendency to drift towards the right. With the deliberate nature of how Arteta balances his side, this might cause problems, especially given how well Saka has done cutting in on his left, in the exact same position. Ødegaard would provide a good link between the attack and defence, something which has been very notable throughout his career. Ødegaard definitely has a point to prove and plenty of determination.

A loan would be perfect for Arsenal. You can never be sure how a player coming to the Premier League will adapt and with Arsenal’s difficult finances (providing the loan fee is not horrendous), this would pose a good move. Ødegaard is very exciting and could complement the Arsenal attack very well. He is a player who is a privilege to watch, something Arsenal are in need of.

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