Mikel Arteta has revealed he’s been keeping an eye on Martin Odegaard’s development for some time and says the Norway international looks “so excited” to be at Arsenal.
The 22-year-old agreed terms on his loan move from Real Madrid yesterday and is expected to challenge Emile Smith Rowe for the number 10 slot over the coming weeks and months.
While Odegaard has struggled to assert himself at the Bernabeu since moving to Spain as a 16-year-old, his spells on loan at Heerenveen, Vitesse Arnhem and Real Sociedad have been impressive.
It sounds as though it was his performances in San Sebastien, the boss’ hometown, that persuaded Arteta to steal the player from under the noses of his former club who wanted him back for a second spell.
Facing the media ahead of Arsenal’s game with Manchester United, Arteta said: “He’s a player that we followed for some time and we believe that he’s got some special qualities that we need, that we have been missing.
“Now we have to give him a little bit of time. He hasn’t played that many minutes in Madrid but he’s been training hard and he looks so excited, as we are, to have another big talent at our club.”
He added: “I think in the last few seasons he’s progressed and developed in the right way. I’ve followed him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad, which is my hometown.
“I know him really well. I’ve been really impressed. He’s a such a talent. He needs the right environment, he needs a little bit of time but I think he’s got the qualities to be a success for us.”
While January loan moves don’t afford players much time to get up to speed, Arteta is hopeful his new recruit can bolster his side’s creativity as they mount a season-rescuing charge to the finish line.
“He’s a specialist to play in the pockets, to play in the No 8 or 10 positions,” explained the boss.
“He can play off the sides. He’s a really creative player who’s really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces. He has the capacity to create chances and to score goals. Something that he has improved a lot is his work-rate without the ball as well, so it’s another option to give us more creativity for sure in the final third, and give us more options to set up in different ways against certain teams.”
It remains to be seen whether Odegaard can make the desired impact, but if he does he may well be someone we look to recruit on a permanent basis. For the moment, Arteta just wants the youngster to settle into his new surroundings.
“He certainly has all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for for that position,” he noted.
“Then it will be down to two things. First of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team. Secondly, what Real Madrid and the player think about it because he’s owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say in that too.”