Martin Odegaard question still hangs over Mikel Arteta despite Arsenal’s transfer market success

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Martin Odegaard question still hangs over Mikel Arteta despite Arsenal’s transfer market success
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Given we are now three months into the season, it is surprising to find ourselves in the situation where Martin Odegaard has been the most disappointing of Arsenal’s summer signings.

Few would have predicted that back in August, when the 22-year-old signed from Real Madrid for a fee in the region of £30million.

That came off the back of a promising loan spell last season as Odegaard impressed Mikel Arteta so much that he made the Norwegian his No1 target in his pursuit of a creative midfielder.

Odegaard, so far, has been in the shadow of Arsenal’s five other summer signings.

In part, that is a testament to how good they have been.

Aaron Ramsdale has been a revelation in goal. Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu have helped sure up the defence. Nuno Tavares, who arrived as a relative unknown, has emerged as a dependable back-up for Kieran Tierney, while Albert Sambi Lokonga has impressed so much since joining that he is now a full Belgium international.

Odegaard, meanwhile, has had a difficult start to the season and this international break will give Arteta time to ponder how to get the best out of him.

He has been hindered by injuries, while it also feels like he was the biggest victim of Arsenal’s attempts to play a 4-3-3 formation in the absence of Granit Xhaka.

Odegaard, along with Emile Smith Rowe, was charged with playing as a No8 and it seemed to impact his game. He was further away from the final third, spending much of his time going backwards, and the qualities that made him so talented looked diminished.

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The failure of that formation promoted Arteta to revert to a 4-2-3-1, with Alexandre Lacazette operating as a No10 and working closely with central striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Since being deployed against Aston Villa last month, it has worked well and Arteta has naturally stuck with it.

That, along with fitness issues, has seen Odegaard starved of minutes, though going forward he should still have a prominent role playing for Arsenal.

There is no denying his talent and it seems no coincidence that his best performances for Arsenal have come as a No10. The derby win over Tottenham is a prime example of that.

Odegaard came off the bench against Watford and played ‘the Lacazette role’, operating higher up the pitch and as a more conventional No10. He looked much more like his old self and would have had a goal if an offside Aubameyang hadn’t got a touch on his shot.

That brief cameo was a positive for Arteta and a timely reminder of what Odegaard can offer. Having a selection dilemma of whether to start him or Lacazette is a nice headache for Arsenal to have ahead of the busy festive period.

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