Monday, February 26, 2024

Arteta hails “tremendous” Odegaard, explains Pepe absence

Mikel Arteta agrees that Martin Odegaard is closing in on his best form and says the midfielder is a natural leader.

Signed from Real Madrid on a permanent basis at the end of August, the Norway international netted an important winner against Burnley in his third appearance of the season only to go off the boil as a disjointed pre-season seemed to catch up with him.

Three goals in four games and a very tidy performance against West Ham United on Wednesday appear to have drawn a line under his struggles and he now looks to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Having spent £34 million on the 23-year-old, Arteta is enthused that the player is delivering on his potential.

“He’s very, very young but he’s already had a lot of experience in different clubs, in international football,” he said ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Leeds.

“I agree that in the last few weeks he’s getting very close to his best level. The ceiling for him, I don’t know where it is, with the talent that he has, the desire that he has, how much he wants to always improve and get better. We’ve got a tremendous player there.”

Captain of his country, it’s been suggested that Odegaard could be one of the candidates to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should Mikel Arteta decide the club needs someone to take the armband on a permanent basis. He spoke in glowing terms about the player’s character last season and nothing has changed.

“He is a natural leader<‘ said Arteta. “If you look for the perfect professional, he wouldn’t be very far from that.”

While Odegaard has been getting minutes dovetailing with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli, the club’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe, has been stuck on the bench wondering when he might next kick a ball in anger.

The Ivory Coast international, who is due to go to the African Cup of Nations at the end of the month, has featured for just 13 minutes in the Premier League since mid-October.

“Obviously with the amount of games we have got, there’s not enough room for all those players,” said Arteta.

“With Nico’s situation it’s something similar. I’ve highlighted on many occasions it’s (based) on what I see every day. That’s with Nico as well. But he needs more opportunities to show what he can do and in the last few games, he hasn’t had them.”

Arteta was also sympathetic to those asking why the attacker hasn’t had more chances to play given his half-decent contribution last season.

“I have to try to make that decision on what I see every single day,” he said. “And to be fair, Nico is really willing and really willing to help the team. The reality is that the position he plays, Bukayo has been playing regularly there and he’s been fantastic. So it’s not been easy for him to find that time.”

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Brady’s bunch

Looking forward to seeing Odegaard reach his potential but I think Pepe is done at the club.

djourou's nutmeg

im confused about the upvotes here. he hasn’t played enough lately to make people realize he’s always underperforming, so what is it with the sudden change of opinion? has seeing players who can actually dribble past someone and showing commitment for the team make you change your mind? i got worried when i saw some people asking for pepe to get minutes as a cf (the lightest player in the prem and with the offside awareness of my dog) so glad to know im not the only one who doesn’t see what he can offer us right now.


I have upvoted not because I agree with the situation. Just because I think Pepe is done for the club. At least under Arteta or if his contract is about to expire

djourou's nutmeg

i think laca and martinelli for example have fallen out of favor for a few months and now look to be regulars in the first XI, so i can totally see the same happening with pepe. i hope not, but i can totally see it!


I have seen enough over the last three years to make my mind up that Pepe is pretty average really and not at the standard we need at Arsenal if we are to progress. Most of his attempts to penetrate into danger areas seem to end in tackles or running the ball out of play. It is true he can score goals and he can make assists, but I just don’t think he has enough quality to be a first team player. If we were offered 30 million for him in January I would sell in a heartbeat, even to… Read more »


Average my arse. Just take a look at his goal contribution since he arrived – quality not quantity. Compare those strikes with the rest of our squad over the same time period.

I wouldn’t pull Saka or ESR for him but I do believe that Pepe is the kind of player would would flourish under a manager like Wenger or Ancelotti who encourage and “release” their players to be free and enjoy their football. In those circumstances he will add quantity and when he leaves (which I also believe is on the cards) he will do well.

Ordnance Dave

Think the biggest issue with Pepe, is Mikel’s preference for two footed attackers. Gabi, ESR and Saka are all a threat off their weaker foot.

Brady’s bunch

The biggest issue with Pepe is himself he’s always falling over himself or running it out plus Saka is by far the better player on the right add to that he’s underperformed for three years now and I can’t see the club extending his contract so a decision will have to be made in the summer or sooner.


One part of me thinks Pepe is a bit brain dead, unreliable and can never fit into our system defensively, on the other hand maybe he’s an unpolished diamond. He’s strong, undeniably skilful and is a great finisher (and the best penalty taker)…..

Fuck knows!! If we can get anywhere near £40m I’d probably take it and get someone else who could do a job right now

Brady’s bunch

You’re bang on there take a hit on it and move him on while there’s some value there, maybe he can reach his potential elsewhere and we strengthen where we need to.


Can we play him as a false 9? Then Martinelli can continue his good form, majority of which is from the left side.
ESR in 10 role and Saka on the right

Johnny 4 Hats

I feel like it’s really easy to see a player not play for a few games and just assume that he’s very unhappy, the manager hates him and they need to be transferred at the next available opportunity. But Martinelli is the perfect example of what happens if that player is good enough. They get a chance – maybe a suspension or an injury or, I dunno, perhaps some weird flu that might be hanging round – and they score a great goal or have a great performance. And then they get a run in until they start to misfire.… Read more »

Jimmy mac

I’ve been going to the arsenal since 1974 i have seen some of the greatest football players about and the young man martinelli is pure class end of remember that goal against Chelsea he should be played as much as possible


Well put Johnny

Laca New Signing

Poor Pepe. I hope he makes good use of the ACON opportunity to show the world what he’s capable of doing with a football, otherwise I think his time at Arsenal FC is as good as done.


Things change quickly in football. Injuries happen, covid happens etc.

You could easily see a situation where Pepe gets a good run of Afcon games, builds a good run of form and manages to transfer it to us and take some of the burden off Saka.

Who knows what the team will look like 2 months from now or by Spring. I have a feeling he will still be very useful for us 🙂

Guns Up

I don’t see why it has to be an either/or situation with him and Saka. There have been plenty of times when Saka has played very well and looked tired by the end – don’t HAVE to leave him out there the full 90, especially this time of year. Imagine being the poor defender who has to deal with Saka for 70 or 75 minutes, then gets a fresh Pepe thrown at him. No thanks!


It’s simple, put the effort in whilst training and up your game when playing. If you don’t then you are not in the starting eleven, way to go MA. No more taking the piss and earning a fortune!


Today’s actually his birthday, so happy birthday Martin! : )


Arsenal FC and their coaches know how vulnerable Arsenal fans are and so they always come up with something that doesn’t quite make sense. 1. Now we are to believe and accept that Nketiah is better and offers more than Pepe huh? 2. By the same person who until a few weeks ago made us accept that Willian was better than Martinelli (who we all know has a been a good football at least with potentials) 3. I really like Arteta and would want him to succeed as our Manager but you can’t but feel that another manager would do… Read more »


Well said. However we have won two in a row now so the memory is wiped clean and hence you are just spreading “negativity”


I didn’t know that being realistic tantamounts to being negative. And so we should be reactionary? Win two matches and we’re good. Lose two matches and we’re no good. This is how the club’s owners and management take advantage of us.


We are good, good enough to be challenging top 4 with an insanely young team and manager with a high upside potential…we are not a great team…yet. Supportive fans make us better, especially when this young. Fans looking at the 1/2 full glass are detrimental in most situations to young developing players. That is Arsenal 2021/22


Yet people that are vocal and maintain the pressure to the manager and the team to deliver can be the driving force forward. The team is managed but not so well as you think it is. Luiz and Kolasinac over Saliba, Willian over Pepe and Martinelli. Even ESR forced his place at the first team on an injury crisis. In the meantime players like Pepe Saliba Guendouzi Mavropanos AMN to name a few are lost into oblivion. Overall I am not denying that there are some positive signs. Likewise we shouldn’t restrict criticism because there are many improvements to be… Read more »

The Beast

Who made anyone accept Willian was better than Martinelli a few weeks ago?

The man had his contract terminated months ago before the season started. Let it go.


It actually says …who until a few weeks ago. Read it again please

Zadok the Motherfucking Priest

So many people are around saying ‘another manager’ would do better – so what manager would you suggest? It’s easy to pick flaws in Arteta, but I so rarely see anyone ever actually suggest who, specifically, they would see replace him. It’s always just some fantasy nonspecific ‘other manager’ who is just ‘better than Arteta’ so they can defend an easy position, rather than suggesting a name so that we can examine the idea constructively. Who do you want? Gasperini, Pioli, Allegri, Inzaghi, Potter, Conte, Rose, Pochettino, Mourinho, Favre, Vieira? These are the managers who might come to Arsenal, and… Read more »


Excellently put. Don’t criticize without positing a solution(s)… it’s valueless and an utter waste of everyone’s time. The endless rehashing of the Willian saga is a case in point ! a huge mistake was made. It took too long to rectify. But it’s long gone now… move on! A better comment would be on the preference for Eddie over Pepe – that is a open and highly arguable topic, imo… would still like to hear Arteta directly and comprehensively address the Eddie vs Pepe issue, not simply the usual ‘coverall’ of ‘he shows me things every day in training’…. Eddie… Read more »


At this point, we should get a dictionary to learn the exact meaning of the word “mistake”. If a Repeated action over the course of a season is a mistake then everything is a mistake. Even the Eddie instance you pointed out is a mistake so let’s keep making it. We’ll say it’s a mistake whenever we decide to stop. This is Arsenal fans.


Been quietly impressed by Odegaard the last couple of games. I was skeptical about signing him given his contributions last season, but it was a no-brainer at the price we got from Madrid. Looks like he’s starting to adapt to the physical nature of the English game, and the requirements for his position, now needs to continue playing with consistency and confidence. He’s added a late burst into the box and a bit of nastiness into his game, if he can continue with that it could elevate him from a good player to a great one.

Bleeding gums murphy

The great part of it was Newcastle gave 25 million for Willock 😂😂

Fantastic piece of business by Arteta and Edu.


I was a little bit critical of that as well! But at 25 million, the money was too good, even though I still think there’s a player in there.

Reiss Neverseen & the DicTeta

Errr… Not sure if Ødegaard should be given captaincy just yet. He’s been guilty of doing that thing Luiz and Xhaka do. Ordering teammates around when they’re not exactly performing well themselves. It’s looks like leadership but it’s about as useful as taking COVID travel advice from Dominic Cummings. I am sure when you are a la Fábrica graduate and have been a child prodigy since 15, you might think yourself a natural leader above others. But he needs to be a bit more humble and get on the same wavelength as his teammates first before captaincy becomes a reality.… Read more »


I really agree with the Odegaard part…
and I think that for now the armband on Laca’s right hand is at the best place it can be.

A Different George

I was hesitant to downvote because the Dominic Cummings remark is very good. I don’t see Odegaard pointing or shouting at teammates on the pitch; sometimes when he has the ball he points in the direction he wants a run made, which is pretty useful. Doesn’t appear a blustery sort of leader like David Luiz or Xhaka (both of whom, by the way, are apparently well-respected by the other players).

VAR will solve all the problems

I think every player on the field yells at each other when things don’t go your way. Arteta even admitted that he loves the way MØ leads the press. So he should be leading others like Xhaka and Partey to join the press. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you see an issue or opportunity to press on the field, you absolutely need to yell it out. That shows leadership. I’ve never had the feeling that he is arrogant or not humble. But I agree with your point that it’s too soon for him or any of the new lads… Read more »

The Beast

Without knowing the kid, I get the complete opposite impression of him than you give. He seems quite humble & down to earth to me.

I don’t interpret communicating on the pitch as arrogance, especially as one of his strong points is initiating the press.

I also don’t think he’s realistically in line for taking on the captaincy permanently anytime this season. Pretty sure it’ll stay with Laca until next season.

Steve Dracula

Pepe must be one of the worst buys in Premier League history.

A real embarrassment for this football club.

Cool Jones

You’re obviously to young to remember Mikel Silvestre, Andre Santos , Ade Akinbiyi etc he is nowhere near the worst premier league buy, it wasn’t his fault we decided to pay Lille 72 million for him.


Ade Akinbiyi for Arsenal?

Nainsley Aitland Miles

He’s referring to Return on Investment.

Silvestre was bought for a mere £750,000 and Santos around £6m so they were low risk investments.

Bossman Bill

They weren’t low risk when they were trying to defend.

The Beast

Santos has to be my personal fav.
Was I hallucinating or do I remember him trying to swap shirts at halftime after putting in one of the worst 1st half displays I’ve ever seen? You’ve gotta love him for the complete lack of fucks given, if nothing else.


I don’t know why you’ve received so many downvotes. The fact that Pepe is a massive flop is undeniable, surely?

Public Elneny

I think that particular definition of flop (high transfer fee vs on field contribution ratio) is just a shitty way to judge your own club’s players, it’s how fans tend to judge rival club’s players. Like clearly it’s not Pepe’s fault that Sanllehi bunged through his transfer at that price.
And if we signed him for half of that, he wouldn’t be labelled a flop at all

Tierney would be considered a flop if we paid £72m for him


True, if we paid 10-20 million for him, I don’t think we’d be calling him a flop at all. At the end of the day, it’s not Pepe’s fault, but we did pay 70m for him. Have we seen performances or form from him that have come close to justifying the huge pricetag? I would argue far from it.

So definitionally, we have to conclude that he’s a flop.

On Tierney, I don’t think we would consider him a flop if we paid 72m for him? He’s one of the most promising and proven full backs in the league.

Public Elneny

I suppose. Maybe the term flop should only be used to judge the people actually involved in negotiating and approving the transfer, rather than the player themselves Once they’ve signed the only thing that should matter to us is to what extent they’re good, committed, and likeable. Let Spurs fans label our expensive signings as flops. I’d rather have a £70m flop in my squad performing like a £30m player than a £5m bargain playing like a £15m player. Ok we won’t get very far by signing £30m players for £70m, but there’s nothing you can do to correct it… Read more »


Perhaps but tbf, as Arteta says, he’d be playing more if not for the fact that we’ve simultaneously produced one of the best young players in world football in Bukayo Saka.


He was quite popular for a counter attacking team like Lille.
He came to Arsenal to play for a manager that asked a right footed left winger in the shape of Zaha.
He played in a very dysfunctional team.
He barely played under Arteta and when he played he produced.
Many of Arteta’s garbage will be others peoples treasure

Diaby's Left Peg

It’s an interesting conundrum working out how Martinelli, Saka, Odegaard and Smith Rowe can fit into an attack together – presumably all will want and deserve to be regular starters soon 🤞
I get the calls for Martinelli at cf but he seems best suited to inside left (although still developing).
Maybe Odegaard sitting deeper a la Cesc but he’s struggled a bit there.


Could Blogs find a more unflattering picture for the article? I’m a big fan of MO. I could be influenced by all the positive posts from Blogs since we first got him on loan, but I find him an exciting player, always looking to drive forward.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

The most exciting MO to play for The Arsenal – when you include away games – since Marc Overmars.

Public Elneny

Part of it is the comparative lack of games this year. With European football we would need 5 good players covering the RW, CAM, LW positions, but without we could probably get away with 4 – Saka, ESR, Odegaard, Martinelli are preferred right now. No good reason for Nketiah to be selected ahead of Pepe out wide though, even if his contract wasn’t expiring. Basically seems like a decision made to piss off Auba and Pepe. Then with club leaking details to media outlets of minor misdemeanours by whatever players Arteta has decided he doesn’t like anymore… How many times… Read more »


Odegaard has really found his form from last season, and will only get better. What an exciting talent. Pepe, on the other hand, I just can’t see it working out for him. Our other options on the wing are just way more dependable. I mean, he’s supposed to be lethal on one-on-ones, but half the time he looks like a giraffe on rollerskates. His decision-making in the final third also leaves much to be desired, and he’s really lacking when it comes to first-touch football. It’s not surprising that he’s been sidelined, and you have to ask questions about why… Read more »


I’ve since gone back to look at his breakout season in France before we signed him, and he didn’t look amazing then. £20-25m max. Clearly some very dodgy dealing going on. That or world class levels of incompetence…


It makes you wonder who’s behind the dealings. Not saying I would do a better job because I’ve played career mode on Fifa, but… Okay I would do a better job.


Sanllehi was fired, remember?


I think Pepe is 5th in the three spots race between – Saka, (undroppable if fit) ESR, Martinelli, Odegard, who you take out to make place for him, there is very little shit to muck about that. With regard to our formation, now the first 5 are a given, (swap Tavares for Tierney, if Kieran needs a break or drops in form) Partey Lhaka and Lokonga fight for 2 out of 3 places. Laca is the striker, we need another good striker as we cannot rely on Nkietah and it’s unclear whether Auba will return to the fold. Pepe can… Read more »




At this point it does feel unfortunately that Pepe has wasted all his opportunities under Arteta. Moreover, in the last few games where he featured he was to say the least uncovincing. However, it is unfair to disregard the period where he played well, was a genuine threat in the attack and produced some amazing goals. Before that good run of games Willian had been the first choice ahead of him in a good number of matches. Nowadays when there is some room for him, Nketiah gets picked. I can’t help but feel that Arteta should be partly blamed for… Read more »


nketiah is a striker, not a great one, but MA is not going to change a system that he thinks it works.


For me the real waste/cost of the Willian fiasco was the denial of the opportunity to see Pepe in a run of 5 or 6 straight matches… especially since he was starting to show some form at the time.


Ultimately Saka shouldn’t play every minute of every game (even without Europe) unless Arteta is willing to run him into the ground…at which point he’ll have to quickly rehabilitate a fridge-cold Pepe whilst dealing with the fallout of Saka potentially being injured/lacking match sharpness for the World Cup (the club has ruined its relationship with one player in the recent past through similar mismanagement). Not worth the fee, but Pepe has shown more than enough goal threat to earn minutes/starts in this team behind Saka. Arteta’s management style lacks so much nuance.


I absolutely agree with that, but you still got the combination of ESR, Martinelli and odegaard ahead of Pepe. Saka takes a rest, he’s still upstaged by the other three. who do you drop?!

The Beast

Martinelli can cover for Saka on the right with ESR on the left if Saka needs a breather, so I dont think it follows that Pepe will automatically deputise for Saka if he’s out.

There’s a lot of competition for attacking positions at the moment & long may it continue. If he’s good enough he’ll feature. If not, or if he doesn’t fit the system, why should he?


Gabi looks way better from the left, and Pepe similarly better from the right.

He’s got no hair but we don’t care...

Please don’t play Xhaka against Leeds.

The Beast

It’s taken longer than I expected but we’ve finally got the customary Xhaka comment that’s apparently become a legal requirement in every single article on this site, regardless of the article’s content.

Lord Bendnter

Yes, because whenever Saka hasn’t started, Nico has…
Yea, nice one Arteta 🤣🤣


I like Odegaard, but am a bit ambivalent about him. He clearly has an eye for a through ball and has good ball possession generally. He’s begun to score goals for us as well. I like when he’s at the point of the press because he’s quick (off the ball), tenacious, and does not often tire. However, when things do not go well for Odegaard, I think its because: He’s slow with the ball at his feet. He’s very one footed His one footedness causes him to use only half the field unless he’s very close to the right sideline.… Read more »


Luka Modric is “one-footed” and he is the greatest midfielder of his generation.


That’s true and a woefully incomplete response. Are you saying Odegaard has the same strengths as Modric or is as good? I’m saying that Odegaard’s extreme one footedness limits his play and therefore Arsenal’s attack. What exactly are you saying?

The Arsenal

I think Odegaard has been good the last handful of Games, very impressive but i also think has so much more to offer which is a good thing if he can reach it.

Pepe is finished. I like him but he is too wayward for how most teams set up and need to play nowadays. I may be wrong but he does not seem the type to buckle down and really work his way back into the squad.


Pepe should forget about getting into the team and work on himself. I’m loving the schedule and timing of Arteta. Once you’re given a chance better make the most of it consistently because there are others sitting and watching you play your turn. Once you fall out of the pecking other another player gets to feature till his time runs out. Same thing applies to laca, Leno, Tienny, matinelli, nketia if you’re not a patient player then you’re not welcome at arsenal this is what Arteta is building and it will go on as we plan to get a better… Read more »


I said it when we finally signed him full-time: Arsenal legend in the making… watch this space.

Dave Swain

Pepe must be played if we’re to get any money back on him… Surely Newcastle must be interested….

Dave Roberts

Unfortunately ,there’ll be injuries sooner or later. We’re just having a stretch where there haven’t been any for awhile. Pepe will have his chance as soon as a forward or two is sidelined.

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