Arsenal wary of James Maddison threat as former transfer target prepares for Martin Odegaard duel
Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard has been the best playmaker in the Premier League for much of this season.
At the King Power Stadium on Saturday, the Gunners captain could come up against a player who will argue he should be in the conversation too.
James Maddison has excelled in a struggling Leicester side this term and the Foxes will be desperately hoping he is fit to play this weekend. The midfielder has been managing a knee issue since the World Cup and it has made him a doubt to face the Gunners.
Despite fitness issues, Maddison has been directly involved in 14 goals, with nine of his own and five assists. Odegaard has registered the same amount, contributing one less goal but an extra assist.
Arsenal head to Leicester looking to extend their two-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, even if only for a few hours.
City are also in action on Saturday when they travel to Bournemouth in the evening kick-off aiming to bounce back from the setback of being held to a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
Arsenal have been in impressive form away from home this season. They have already won 28 points on the road, the same as they managed in the whole of last season. The Gunners have also kept seven away clean sheets, more than any other team in the Premier League.
Their defensive steel, however, has weakened in recent weeks and Mikel Arteta’s side have not kept a clean sheet in their last five Premier League games. The last time they were this leaky was the end of last season, when they went 10 games without a shut-out.
Leicester have been equally shaky at the back too and the Foxes have not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League since the World Cup. In that time, they have conceded 16 goals in just eight games.
It all points towards Saturday being an open game and one in which both Maddison and Odegaard should revel. Odegaard was instrumental in Arsenal’s comeback against Aston Villa last week as they won 4-2 to steady their title bid after a wobble.
The Norwegian created seven chances, which was the most by a Premier League player in a single game since Mesut Ozil against Newcastle in December 2017. Odegaard has thrived in his role as Arsenal captain and those at the club have noticed how he has relished the responsibility.
It is a similar story with Maddison at Leicester, who has been handed the armband in recent weeks. He is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a summer move to Manchester City. Newcastle and Tottenham have also been credited with an interest.
Making Maddison captain feels a clever ploy by Brendan Rodgers to make the 26-year-old feel wanted, but either way he has responded to it. There was a time when the England midfielder could have ended up at Arsenal as they were tracking him in the summer of 2021.
Arsenal’s priority was Odegaard, and they told the Norwegian as much at the end of his loan spell the previous season. Real Madrid dug their heels in and, while Arsenal eventually got their man in late August, Maddison emerged as a viable alternative.
A move to north London never materialised, but perhaps that was the best for all parties as now Maddison and Odegaard are thriving as two of the best creators in the Premier League. Both will be hoping they can once again make the difference on Saturday.