After tying down Martin Odegaard to a new contract, Mikel Arteta says it’s “an absolute joy” to work with the Norway international on a day-to-day basis and that his number 8 shouldn’t put a ceiling on his potential.
In many respects, the 24-year-old midfielder has come to symbolise Arsenal’s renaissance under the Spaniard. He’s improved year-on-year since signing from Real Madrid and completely embedded himself in the culture of the club as a steely but low-key captain.
Having spent time on loan at Arteta’s boyhood club, Real Sociedad, the pair appear to have a connection that goes deeper than most player-manager relationships. It’s said they often communicate in Spanish when talking privately.
Having already rewarded other key squad members with new long-term contracts, it seemed only a matter of time before Odegaard picked up a well-deserved pay rise.
Arteta is clearly delighted to have the loyalty of his star man.
“Martin signing a new long-term contract is such good news for everyone connected with Arsenal,” he told Arsenal.com.
“He is our captain and a hugely respected person at our club, who is a great role model and professional, bringing quality and maturity in everything he does. On the pitch, as everyone has seen, Martin is a young player of top quality who consistently contributes at a such a high level.
“As a manager, working with Martin the person and the player is an absolute joy, and it’s great that after experiencing a number of clubs already in his career, he is now settled and really feels at home at Arsenal. We all look forward to continuing our journey with Martin in the years to come.”
In his pre-Sp*rs press conference, he added: “It just shows as well that there are many ways to make it [to the top], there are many pathways to arrive where you want and at the end, it’s about finding a place where you feel comfortable, where you feel valued and you can express your talent. I think he’s found that place, he’s loved by everybody, respected by everybody and he fully deserves what he’s doing.”
Having been on an upward trajectory since he arrived in London, the question is how much better can Odegaard get? Arteta doesn’t want the Norwegian, or any of his players, to put a limit on their ambitions.
“I think they don’t have to be looking for a ceiling,” said the manager. “I think they have to try to be better every single day, being humble enough to admit that there is still a big room for them.
Having tied down many of his key players to long-term deals, the manager also believes the collective can make individuals stronger.
“One thing is what you can do individually every single day, which I think he does, and the other thing is obviously the contribution to all the players that you have around you,” he said.
“When you have players that have the quality to make you better, that’s a huge bonus. I think you are as good as your team and I think the players that he has around him obviously elevate his qualities and that’s why he’s better and better.
He added: “The club has done really well in the last two or three years to try to give us some consistency and try to maintain the talent that we have. And we are trying to develop to be consistently what we want to be. And that’s the objective, to keep maintaining that and improving the team.”