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Mikel Arteta says Martin Odegaard can be leader in young Arsenal squad

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Mikel Arteta says summer signing Martin Odegaard has a key role to play in bringing leadership to his young Arsenal squad.

Odegaard signed on a permanent deal from Real Madrid last month, having spent the second half of last season on loan at the Emirates.

The Norwegian was one of six new arrivals at London Colney, all of whom are aged 23 or under, while academy graduates Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe - aged 20 and 21 - are already prominent figures in the team.

A lack of leadership within the dressing room has been a criticism thrown at Arsenal squads for a number of years and with the departures of David Luiz and Hector Bellerin this summer, Arteta lost two of his more senior figures.

However, the Spaniard cited Odegaard and fellow new boy Albert Sambi Lokonga as examples of players who have the experience to step up, in spite of their age.

“I think we are building some leadership in the group,” Arteta said. “It’s a really young group, with a lot of players under 23.

“Martin is the captain of the national team and Sambi was the captain at Anderlecht.

“Martin has this capacity to do that with his talent, taking the ball in moments where others probably refuse to, but as well with his attitude, his rhythm and the way he presses and puts people under pressure.”

Arteta also heaped praise on Odegaard for his defensive work during the Gunners’ 1-0 win at Burnley on Saturday.

The Arsenal boss named an adventurous lineup, with Odegaard, Smith Rowe, Saka and Nicolas Pepe all included in support of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Thomas Partey as the only recognised sitting midfielder.

However, Odegaard adapted well to a slightly deeper role and Arteta highlighted the contribution of his attacking players in earning a second successive league clean sheet.

“[Odegaard] is probably the first to do it [those defensive responsibilities],” he added. “I was really impressed with Auba as well - I think his rhythm and high pressing was fantastic.

“It was a real commitment and purpose because you can go to try and win the ball or put pressure [on] - but you can tell when you are really doing it or when you’ve been told to do it.

“There was a big meaning behind it and when you go to places like that, when you are having difficult moments and you want to start to get results, I think you have to go to those basics and have every single player do that, even the ones that came on - I think they were superb, lifted the momentum of the team and took us to a different level. I think that’s really important.”

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