Arsenal: Why influential Martin Odegaard deserves to be named Mikel Arteta’s full-time captain

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Arsenal: Why influential Martin Odegaard deserves to be named Mikel Arteta’s full-time captain
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It is fitting that when Arsenal walk out at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday, it will be Martin Odegaard leading them into battle.

Mikel Arteta has placed his trust in youth and nothing demonstrates that more than the fact that a 23-year-old should captain them in their biggest game of the season.

Odegaard captaining Arsenal in recent weeks has gone under the radar during their run of four straight wins. He was given the armband ahead of the trip to Southampton last month, with Alexandre Lacazette sidelined due to Covid-19, and even that was done with minimal fuss.

“He (Arteta) just told me before the first game against Southampton that I was going to wear it and that was all,” said Odegaard.

Given the turbulent time Arsenal have had with their captains recently, they are probably relieved Odegaard’s ascent has almost gone unnoticed.

That is partly thanks to the Norwegian himself, who, while being thrilled to serve as Arsenal skipper, has made a point in interviews of saying how he is “just happy to step in”.

In the wake of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s public stripping of the captaincy and subsequent departure, Arteta has neatly diffused the situation by not appointing a permanent successor.

Instead, a leadership group has been seeing Arsenal through since December, with Granit Xhaka, Kieran Tierney, Lacazette, Odegaard and Rob Holding all part of it. It is a fairly fluid unit, with Lacazette leading the way but others taking the armband at different points.

Martin Odegaard has been at the heart of Arsenal’s recent revival under Mikel Arteta (PA)
Martin Odegaard has been at the heart of Arsenal’s recent revival under Mikel Arteta (PA)

“It is not easy. I understand it’s confusing,” said Arteta. “But you have to understand we have a lot of issues and more captaincy issues… I guarantee that is not what we need.”

In recent weeks it has become more clear-cut, with Odegaard taking the lead in the absence of Lacazette. The midfielder's rise is not surprising to those at the club as he enjoys a close relationship with Arteta. The pair share the same football philosophy and are very much on the same wavelength.

The attraction of Odegaard as a captain makes sense, not least because he would be a skipper in the mould of Arteta. The Norwegian bears a resemblance to his manager when he was captain - a hard worker, comfortable with the media and fully focused on his football.

Odegaard’s role in Arsenal’s recent rise cannot be overlooked

Odegaard has been Arsenal’s technical leader all season, dictating the way they play, but now he is surely the favourite to be their long-term captain, too.

Arteta may well opt to stick with a leadership group, as Manchester City do under Pep Guardiola, but Odegaard feels the most likely to replace Lacazette at the head of it. His role in Arsenal’s recent rise cannot be overlooked.

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