Mikel Arteta says he’s not surprised that Martin Odegaard has been handed the captain’s armband by Norway despite being only 22.
It was confirmed last week that the midfielder, on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid since January, will succeed 31-year-old Stefan Johansen when he joins his compatriots for upcoming matches against Gibraltar, Turkey and Montenegro.
“We think Martin has lived a long life already in European football,” explained national team coach Stale Solbakken when asked about the decision. Several of his more experienced teammates praised the decision.
Ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League last-16 second-leg clash with Olympiacos, Arteta was asked for his thoughts.
“I’m not surprised after sharing some time with him now,” he said.
“I’m not surprised at all. He’s got this personality, he’s a really humble and easygoing guy but at the same time, he’s very, very professional and very dedicated. He leads by example, which normally a captain should do.”
Norway’s men’s team hasn’t qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2000 but expectations are rising that the new generation, spearheaded by Odegaard and Borussia Dortmund’s Dolph Lundgren re-gen Erling Haaland, could rectify that in the coming years.
Asked if Odegaard will benefit from the extra-responsibility, Arteta added: “I don’t know. That’s a question for him. I just can just answer to what I’ve seen so far. I don’t know him for five years.
“I don’t know how he reacts in many other scenarios but if I have to give an opinion right now, then it’s that he is more than prepared to take that role [of Norway captain]. I’ve been very positive and impressed with his human qualities as well.”
After scoring two important goals in a week, Odegaard’s stock at Arsenal is certainly on the rise. He’s already made 10 appearances, predominantly in the number 10 role, and has dovetailed well with fellow creatives, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
Having looked very disjointed in attack in the first half of the season, the injection of technical quality in the final third has led to more encouraging joined-up performances by the Gunners.
“The plan was to have more options and to start to create relationships with players that, in our opinion, could play together,” said Arteta.
“We work together as a club to try to identify those talents, good players and intelligent players that can always play together.
“We have to find the right structure for them to maximise their potential and this is what we are trying to do and we will try to do that even more with some of the players that we have with the same qualities.”
The big question now is whether Arsenal can persuade Real Madrid to extend Odegaard’s loan for another year or even allow him to join us on a permanent deal. You get the sense that Arteta would love that.
“You have to see him in action, you have to see his character a little bit closer, on a daily basis,” he said.
“I think everybody has been really impressed with how quickly he has adapted. Professionally, how he is and how willing he has been since day one to try to engage with everybody at Colney and then also with the performances that he’s putting in as well.”