Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta heaped praise on the leadership qualities of Martin Odegaard following the club’s stunning 3-3 comeback draw against West Ham United in the Premier League yesterday.
The Gunners made a poor start in the derby, and they went three goals down within the 32nd minute of the contest. It appeared that they could be in for a hiding but salvaged a point in the end.
Alexandre Lacazette brought the Gunners back into the game with a superb strike in the 38th minute, but it was given as an own goal as the ball was going out of play, if not for the intervention from Tomas Soucek.
At the hour mark, Hammers defender Craig Dawson put the ball into his own net. He tried to clear his lines with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang behind him but instead rifled the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.
The north London club eventually levelled the scores in the 82nd minute through a powerful Lacazette header after a superb right-footed cross from Nicolas Pepe, who replaced Bukayo Saka.
For all three goals, Odegaard was the main catalyst as he delivered the ball to the right flank for Calum Chambers and Pepe. The Norwegian created four key chances for the club and led the comeback when the Gunners seemed down and out.
Speaking after the game, Arteta was asked about the leadership qualities of the Real Madrid loanee. In his response, he said that he was not surprised by the attacker’s desire to have the ball and discussed his importance to the team.
He told Arsenal.com: “He’s been showing that, I think, from week one. When he steps onto that pitch, he always wants the ball. He commands the pressing, and he’s been really influential.
“I think we are all happily surprised because he looks shy and humble, but when he steps on that pitch, he is a real character. He loves to play football.”
Statistically, Odegaard has registered only one goal and one assist for the Gunners from 12 appearances, but his influence on the pitch has been clear to see with his range and quality of distribution.
The Gunners started the derby with heavy legs after the midweek European exploits against Olympiacos, but Odegaard managed to lift the mood of the players around him with his urge to get onto the ball.
Odegaard has had a similar influence to former Gunners star Mesut Ozil during his early days at Arsenal. However, the 22-year-old has shown the desire to press opponents regularly, which was missing with the German.
His loan deal expires at the end of June, and the Gunners will be desperate to keep hold of him for next season. It remains to be seen whether they can extend his stay on either a temporary or permanent contract.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com