Mikel Arteta says the recruitment of Martin Odegaard was driven by a need for options in midfield and insists the new boy won’t hamper Emile Smith Rowe’s development.
After an extensive hunt for a creative player, Arsenal sealed a budget-friendly deal to take the Norway international on loan for the rest of the season and he’s expected to challenge for the number 10 role.
While Smith Rowe has made the position his own in the last month, Arteta is keen to relieve the pressure on the Academy graduate who only recently returned from a long spell on the sidelines.
Having been captain of Arsene Wenger squads that were jam-packed with diminutive tiki-taka ballers, Arteta also hinted he won’t be shy to field the duo at the same time.
“Of course, they can play together, and it is not about pushing somebody else [out of the team],” Arteta said ahead of Saturday’s match with Manchester United.
“Emile has earned his right to play the way he is performing – and Martin has to earn that.
“Emile cannot play every single game, as we knew the other day. For example, in the FA Cup he was injured, he could not play.
“The other day [against Southampton on Tuesday], he could only play certain minutes because he was struggling for the last minutes.
“It has been a massive step for him for what he was doing three, four months ago and what he is doing right now. We need options.”
Despite their surprise defeat to Sheffield United in midweek, the visit of the Red Devils to the Emirates pitches two of the Premier League’s most in-form sides against each other. Both sides have taken 17 points from their last eight games to catapult themselves up the table.
Having been the subject of relegation talk in December, the Gunners are now seven points shy of the Champions League places with 18 games remaining. Arteta is pleased with the way his players have stuck together through a tough spell.
“I am really impressed with the resilience that we have shown as a team and how we have been through those difficult moments,” he said.
“I think that’s really important. You really see the people, the players, the characters and the values of a club when things are not going well. When things are going well it’s easy, everybody wants to be on the front page and with a smile to it.
“I think it’s been a really good test, to test again our character but as well, how we communicate and how we deal with pressure. I must say that I have been really impressed with that.