Mikel Arteta and Bukayo Saka were full of praise for captain Martin Odegaard as the Norwegian set the tone for Arsenal’s win at Newcastle with an all-action performance that included his third goal in five days.
After netting a first half brace against Chelsea on Tuesday, the Norway international teed up another three points with a precise long-range effort that temporarily stuck a pin in the fervent St James’ Park atmosphere.
The goal, his 15th of a stellar Premier League campaign, drew Odegaard level with Gabriel Martinelli as the club’s top scorer this season and equalled the tally achieved by Cesc Fabregas in 2009/10; the most goals by an Arsenal midfielder in a single league campaign.
2 – In Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødegaard (both 15 goals), @Arsenal have had two players score 15+ goals in a single Premier League season for the very first time. Share. pic.twitter.com/y29v7e0WEi
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 7, 2023
The 24-year-old should have broken the Spaniard’s record before the break but was twice denied by Nick Pope who was in inspired form.
Asked what Odegaard brings to the team, Arteta told his post-game press conference: “The leadership he is showing and the levels of consistency which is what you demand from those leaders.
“It’s not moments, it’s every single day. Home and away, he’s had some huge performances, he’s really helping the team, he’s growing in the right direction. We are all very happy to have him.”
Saka was similarly effusive in his praise. “He’s a fantastic leader, he has been all season,” the winger told Arsenal.com.
“He’s been leading by example, on and off the pitch. Hopefully he can continue this form.
“We needed that goal because we were under pressure early on. The first few chances definitely went their way and they had a penalty shout too. After that we scored a fantastic goal, from then we controlled the game.”
In beating Newcastle, Arsenal closed the gap on leaders Manchester City to a point having played an extra game. Pep Guardiola’s side face a busy week; first heading to Real Madrid for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final before travelling to relegation-threatened Everton on Sunday.
After dropping important points in April, the Gunners have to hope for a couple of slip-ups from the reigning champions who are currently on a 10-game winning streak in the league.
Midfielder Jorginho, voted man-of-the-match at St James’ Park, says he won’t be playing close attention to City’s matches.
“I will be honest with you, I am not watching their games – because if we don’t win here, it doesn’t matter,” he told the Evening Standard.
As long as we are winning, we are doing our part. At the end, we are going to see what happens. We don’t know [what will happen].
“We know what we can do and we need to focus on that. Then they have their things to do and they have things to think. That’s it.”