At age 15, Martin Ødegaard had the world at his feet as the biggest clubs in Europe were circling around to land this Norwegian teen sensation and eventually, Real Madrid got their hands on the hottest young property in the market at the time. Yet seven and a half years later, at age 22, Martin Ødegaard has not lit up the world as everybody expected him to.
After a loan spell at Heerenveen, not all was looking good for the Norwegian. However, a resurgence at Vitesse caught the eye of several clubs and Real Sociedad won the race in 2019 to bring Ødegaard to San Sebastian.
It is safe to say it paid off, as Martin Ødegaard led Real Sociedad to a 6th placed finish in La Liga and a place in the Europa League, something they had achieved only twice before this season in the past 10 years. In fact, until the lockdown, it would by no means be far fetched to say that he was the most exciting player in Spain, full of energy, optimism, invention and a passing range that people had only seen shades of at Vitesse and during his early days at Stromsgodset.
He was redefining the ‘8’ position as he was showcasing skills that people had only seen before in Mesut Ozil, during his time at Real Madrid. Looking at his performances, Zinedine Zidane recalled Ødegaard back to Real as his side was lacking a lot of creativity in their final third, something Ødegaard excelled at in Sociedad. Yet, after only 2 starts, Ødegaard fell down the pecking order again, as Modric, Kroos & Casemiro were deemed ‘undroppable’ by Zinedine Zidane.
Ødegaard made his intentions of leaving Real Madrid clear to Zinedine Zidane and Real Sociedad always wanted the Norwegian back after his eye-catching first stint at the club. Ødegaard was all set to make San Sebastian his new home, however, there was one more club that wanted to add the Norwegian to their ranks.
Arsenal. A team that was in complete resurgence since the turn of the year, picking up 16 points out of a possible 18 with the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe heading the push for European qualification. One phone call from Mikel Arteta convinced Martin Ødegaard that his next destination must be Arsenal. ‘Every time you go somewhere, you want to make sure that it feels good and there is a plan. The club suits me’ – Ødegaard was caught saying in his first interview after joining Arsenal.
This is something that is really important for players like Ødegaard. There are some players that always look for a plan and the direction in which a club is moving and if it suits them. eg: Cesc Fabregas, somebody idolized by Ødegaard, joined Chelsea only because of a clear & concise plan put forward to him by the then manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho.
Now, where does the Norwegian fit in at Arsenal?
Arsenal plays a 4-2-3-1 formation which suits Ødegaard’s playing style perfectly. He’s a number 8 that floats around ahead of the central midfield, a position similar to Ozil but Ødegaard is much more innovative and energetic, something the German playmaker lacked towards the latter years at Arsenal. Ødegaard is fast, creative, has an eye for a pass and has a wand of a left foot.
However, here lies the problem. Ødegaard’s strengths may turn out to be his nemesis since the ever-energetic Emile Smith-Rowe has made that attacking midfield position his own in the past 2 months.
But because Ødegaard possesses an all-round skillset which is very rare in the Premier League, Arsenal could always revert to a 4-3-3 formation and use him the same way Pep Guardiola used David Silva in the 17/18 season, a dynamic passer in the central midfield who would assist the attack and provide defensive cover by cutting out the passing lines and pressing high up the field.
Alternatively, Arsenal could shift to a 4-2-2-2 with Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard in the attacking midfield areas with Lacazette and Pierre-Emrick-Aubameyang in the traditional 2 striker roles.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to one question. Will Martin Ødegaard be able to cope with the physicality and the pace of the Premier League? Because if he can, the Norwegian certainly has the talent and charisma to become an important figure at the club and more importantly a favorite among the fans!