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 real
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.
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, 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.
Robin van Persie & the red card that cost Arsenal dearly in 2011
Remember when Arsenal were good? No, didn’t think so.
Joking aside, 2011 brings bittersweet memories for Gunners fans and, rose-tinted spectacles or not, most of them would snap your hand off if offered to go back to those times. Yes, even with Marouane Chamakh on the books and Jens Lehmann back in the squad.
Having completed an iconic 2-1 comeback win against Barcelona in front of a raucous Emirates Stadium, Arsenal felt invincible once again. A Jack Wilshere masterclass and a winning goal from Andrey Arshavin (who the streets will never forget) saw them take one step towards the Champions League quarter final, having schooled the competition favourites in a mighty and characterful display in north London.
With the second leg date set for 8 March 2011, Arsenal had a few weeks in between where they had the chance to win some silverware in preparation for the big trip to Barcelona, facing Birmingham in the League Cup final on 27 February.
Arsenal took the lead through Robin van Persie, but a last minute winner halted the Gunners in their pursuit of the trophy, because that’s what Arsenal do best. Not to panic, though, because the trip to Spain was waiting and all would be forgotten when the Gunners ran wild on Camp Nou, even if there were doubts over Van Persie’s fitness.
Barcelona were out for revenge having had a win in London stolen from under their eyes. They won all four games they played in between the two legs, and arrived at Camp Nou in March ready to throw everything they had at Arsenal.
It was going well for the Gunners after kick off, until Wojciech Szczesny was injured after saving a free kick from Dani Alves – one that was so hard it dislocated his finger and forced Arsenal into a substitution. Manuel Almunia came on and did well, but that was a sign that it would be a tough night at the office.
Arsenal’s defence had managed to limit the numbers of chances afforded to Lionel Messi in the first half, but he found a way through in injury time to give La Blaugrana the lead, majestically dinking the ball over Almunia before tapping home to level the aggregate score line.
Arsene Wenger’s side came out with intent after the break, and a bullet header from Sergio Busquets of all people saw the ball rifle into the back of his own net and restore Arsenal’s lead.
Then disaster struck.
Three minutes later, Van Persie was adjudged to be offside when he latched onto Cesc Fabregas’ through ball and fired just wide. For continuing to play on and taking the shot after the referee had blown his whistle, the Dutchman received a second yellow card and was sent off in bizarre fashion, leaving Arsenal down to 10 men and without their talisman. His face said it all – he was bewildered as to why he was being dismissed.
A furious Van Persie appealed to referee Massimo Busacca, explaining that he didn’t hear the whistle amid the cheers and jeers of a full Camp Nou as he burst through on goal. The ref was having none of it, though, and Arsenal capitulated while Barça seized the opportunity.
Andres Iniesta turned up the heat in the middle of the park, slaloming past a number of players to assist Xavi and level the aggregate score at 3-3 after 69 minutes. Messi gave his side the lead two minutes later from 12 yards after Laurent Koscielny tripped Pedro inside the box, and that was it.
The Gunners turned to a substitute Nicklas Bendtner, who couldn’t find a heroic winning goal for his side- obviously – and Barcelona strolled into the quarter finals winning 3-1 on the night.
Speaking after the final whistle, Van Persie hailed the decision as a ‘total joke’ and lambasted the referee for being poor and against Arsenal all night, having ‘killed the game’ with his performance.
The defeat was a kick in the teeth for Arsenal, who had gone from being favourites to win the League Cup and knock out Barcelona in the Champions League to a side left bereft by two damaging defeats.
To make matters worse, the injury to Szczesny resulted in 41-year-old Jens Lehmann being dragged out of retirement as Almunia was the only fit keeper at the club – what a way to end a whirlwind few weeks, eh?
It’s difficult to say with any certainty- particularly with a team consisting of Chamakh, Bendtner and the aforementioned German pensioner – whether Arsenal would have become European champions had they beaten Barça. But one thing is for sure – Van Persie’s dismissal cost them dearly on the night, and instead of Arsene Wenger lifting the Champions League high above his head, it was Pep Guardiola.
Mikel Arteta demands answers over ‘obvious’ penalty Arsenal were denied in Burnley draw
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was left fuming following his side’s 1-1 draw with Burnley at Turf Moor because of the ‘obvious and clear’ penalty the Spaniard thought the Gunners should have been awarded.
It was a passage of play that saw Nicolas Pepe take on the Burnley left-back Erik Pieters, whose arm appeared to meet the ball and block it. The incident wasn’t flagged up by VAR and the game continued.
Pieters was later penalised for a separate incident when he blocked a goal-bound shot from Pepe, which deflected onto the crossbar and clear. Referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot and brandished a red card, but VAR intervened when replays showed it had struck his shoulder.
The latter incident was a perfect example of how VAR should work, but Arteta was perplexed as to why the first incident wasn’t ruled a penalty, which could have given Arsenal the win.
“I think it’s obvious and clear, I think there is no debate about that. If that is not a penalty, then would someone explain what a penalty is in this league,” he said, via Arsenal.com.
“We created, but we didn’t score enough. We gave a goal to the opponent and then don’t get the decision that we should get. It then becomes very difficult to win the game.”
Mikel Arteta is not convinced that VAR got the big decisions correct today… pic.twitter.com/qH5QHfqyQV
— 90min (@90min_Football) March 6, 2021
Having taken the lead early through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the goal that Arsenal gave away was avoidable and the result of Granit Xhaka trying to play a pass that had been closed off by Burnley forward Chris Wood, who blocked it and diverted the ball into the goal.
Arteta defended Xhaka’s decision making in that instance, insisting that possession-based football from the back is still how he wants his team to play, despite the risks involved.
“It is what it is, it’s the way that we play and the way that I want to play,” the boss explained.
“We just have to know the risk and the rules that we have in certain areas in terms of the type of balls we have to play. But it is what it is.”
English FA explains why Arsenal were denied penalty against Burnley
The Premier League has claimed that Arsenal were denied a penalty against Burnley because Erik Pieters was in ‘close proximity’ to Nicolas Pepe.
The Gunners were forced to settle for a point at Turf Moor after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s early opener was cancelled out by Chris Wood, who benefitted from a huge mistake by Granit Xhaka.
However, Arsenal felt aggrieved in the 75th minute when Pepe’s touch inside Burnley’s box led the ball to hit Pieters’ outstretched arm, but Mikel Arteta’s side were not awarded a penalty following a VAR review.
Earlier this week, Fulham were involved in a similar incident as Mario Lemina was penalised for handball in the build-up to their disallowed goal against Tottenham.
But in a statement after the game, the Premier League clarified why Arsenal were not given the decision.
‘The ball has hit him from close proximity and he’s had no time to react,’ said the statement. ‘It wasn’t given on-field and the VAR didn’t think it was a clear error.’
— Fair Advantage (@FairAdvantageCA) March 6, 2021
Arteta, meanwhile, was left in no doubt that his side should have been awarded a penalty. ‘Absolutely,’ the Arsenal manager said after the game.
‘I think it is obvious and clear. I think there is no debate about that. ‘If that’s not a penalty, then someone will explain what a penalty is in this league.’
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