Mikel Arteta always believed Martin Odegaard could become more of a penalty box threat and says the 14 goals the Norwegian has scored for Arsenal this season are a testament to his willingness to improve.
Thanks to his brace against Chelsea on Tuesday night, the midfielder now has double the number of goals and assists compared to last season in almost exactly the same number of minutes (7G & 4A in 2,793 mins total played last season vs 14G & 8A in 2,828 mins played this season).
Odegaard is one of four Gunners to hit double figures in the league this season and that collective effort has helped propel an unlikely title challenge. Squeezing more goals from the midfield has long been an aim for Arteta whose sides – certainly in their early iteration – were a little shot shy.
“That’s something that our attacking midfielders have to have the ability to do,” Arteta said of his captain’s scoring.
“That’s why we play in a certain way to exploit those spaces. Martin has the capacity to do that, he’s finding himself in those positions and then he is being very effective in the final action. It’s something very important for us.”
Pressed on whether Arsenal are doing anything specific in training to drive such an improvement from Odegaard, he added: “No, it’s about what we want in the position and what we think is capable of doing.
“All the time we have to think to adapt to the quality of our players, but as well trying to inspire them to go a bit further.
“That’s what they’ve been doing and explore other things that can be incredibly important for the team to help us to win more games.
“He’s always been open and he works really hard to try to achieve that all the time.”
While his side have been far more potent in the box this season compared to years gone by – the current crop have already scored seven more goals than Arsene Wenger’s fabled ‘Invincibles’ – he says there is still room for improvement.
The Gunners currently trail Manchester City by a point and could be four points behind the reigning champions by the time we play Newcastle on Sunday. While two defeats at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s side have been damaging to our title chances, the points dropped in draws due to a lack of killer instinct also irk the boss.
“We need to find moments that are crucial in games to kill them [opponents] and find better ways to finalise games. We’ve had a few, especially with the games that we have drawn.”