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Arteta’s tempo-setter, de facto Captain (and Arsenal’s latest Wizard?) shines against Brentford

Little Spanish genius - Santi Cazorla

 

Another satisfying afternoon’s work for Arteta’s slimmed down, tightknit unit against Brentford. The 2-1 score line was scant justice for an utterly dominant and controlled display, and but for a myopic referee and the lack of a clinical striker it could and should have been more. Nevertheless, it was sweet revenge for the Bee’s opening day win over a depleted Gunners team.

As I walked away from a windswept Emirates, despite the continued joy that the headline-making Saka and Smith-Rowe imbue, it was the performance of Martin Odegaard that left the lingering satisfaction. The Norwegian could use his right foot more often and he certainly could shoot rather than pass (you known which situation I mean,) but ultimately it was Odegaard that set the tone on Saturday afternoon.

Every top side, often littered with amazing players, will still have one individual that sets the tempo and rhythm of their team. They may not always be the team’s superstar but when they are on the top of their game, they will make the stars shine. In all honesty, despite often forgotten, Arteta himself for his first three seasons as a Gunner, was our tempo-setter. So, the Spaniard will understand the need to have at least one player who will always look to retain momentum in possession.

For too long, and this is not doing this individual any disservice, that player for Arsenal has been Granit Xhaka. The Swiss is a magnificent passer of a football but even when at his best, the tempo will not be a fast as is required to threaten the best. Even the greatest, as we saw with Man City at the weekend, when their tempo-setters like Gundogan and de Bruyne are at 80%, can suffer.

odegaard

Right now, Odegaard is Arteta’s tempo-setter and is approaching his best when it comes to neat, swift passing and interchanges. His reverse passes, often cleverly disguised, are a joy to behold and frequently wrong foot opposition defences. His on-pitch relationship with Saka is bordering on telepathic at times, and his ball retention is invaluable. It was why I was stunned that Arteta took his Norwegian playmaker off, when 1-0 up away at Wolves, when retaining possession of the football was everything.

Odegaard is not a conventional ‘10’ frequently on the right, interlinking and exchanging space and the ball with Saka, but in Arsenal’s set up this is perfect, particularly when Smith Rowe, not a conventional winger, can drift in field. I guess this is why I am so keen for Arteta to try Martinelli as a striker again, to see if it can work with ESR, Odegaard and Saka behind the Brazilian. For this to work, perhaps our blond Viking needs to add more assists and goals, but I do think his lack of assist numbers is far from indicative of his value to our creativity.

His critics, and these lessen week-on-week, will point to these stats, but for me, those will soon follow if he maintains his current levels. Right now, Odegaard’s value, and just watch his teammates’ appreciation of him, is that he is making those around him better players, and there is no bigger compliment than that. Arteta himself allowed Ramsey to flourish, and our current Number 8 is elevating the levels of his younger colleagues.

Odegaard-Tweet

The word I used in my post-match tweet about what Odegaard gives the team is fluidity – he keeps us fluid! He has a picture in his mind, more often than not, of how he wishes to use the ball on receipt, which the best players do. However, if there are no obvious options, he will seldom pass aimlessly or play a percentage pass. He will keep the ball himself, twist and turn, until a pass to ensure Arsenal stay on the front foot becomes available to him. A huge compliment to pay him, in these attributes, would be to say he is ‘Santiesque’.

When exchanging messages with a friend after the match, that person described Odegaard as Arsenal’s de facto Captain, which sums it all up to be honest. For so long Arsenal in the latter Wenger and Emery eras were devoid of obvious leaders. Arteta is building a squad which has several and right now our Norwegian baller is certainly one of them.

This article first appeared in my Sun Fan Football column, and is republished here with permission.

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2 Responses to Arteta’s tempo-setter, de facto Captain (and Arsenal’s latest Wizard?) shines against Brentford

  1. Bob February 24, 2022 at 1:10 pm #

    I like the way you wrote it from your heart Dave.

    I hope to experience the joy of watching ‘the Arsenal midfield maestro’ once again. An Odegaard’s tale and this season is the first chapter. A tale that is hopefully as good as what Bergkamp wrote for us.

    • Dave Seager February 24, 2022 at 3:01 pm #

      Thanks mate

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