It has been a rollercoaster of a career to date for Martin Ødegaard. His latest loan spell at Arsenal has seen him attempt to kickstart his career in the Premier League. Last season, he fared well at Real Sociedad and earned a chance to return early to Real Madrid, but Zinedine Zidane was reluctant to give the Norwegian international a run in the first team. This led to his temporary move to the Emirates Stadium, in the hope that greater exposure in the Premier League can provide him with a settled home at the top level.
The emergence of Erling Haaland should prove to be a welcome boost to Ødegaard’s long term hopes. As a teenager, the midfielder was talked up as the next big thing to come out of the Scandinavian country, but he can now develop without as much pressure on his progress. This is due to his international team-mate taking a lot of that pressure on himself. At the age of 22, the Arsenal loanee now looks ready to make his mark at the highest level.
There were some doubts about his temporary signing, as it was thought that he could stunt the development of academy graduate Emile Smith-Rowe. However, the creative midfielders have shown that they can co-exist in the same team. One of the things lacking from Arsenal during the first half of the season was creativity from midfield. They were struggling to break teams down and this led to calls for the return of Mesut Ozil. However, the club were keen to move on from the German and they now have a creative axis that they can build their future around.
Since his loan move to North London, Ødegaard has scored twice for the Gunners, finding the back of the net in the Premier League and Europa League. Before the international break, there were signs that he was starting to control games for his new team. He was a major reason for the recent comeback against West Ham United, as his incisive passing regularly created positive situations for his team.
During the London derby against West Ham, the 22-year-old attempted three shots and made four key passes. The most impressive part of his game was his ball retention, as he completed 93% of his passes. As he was operating primarily in the final third, this underlines the quality he possesses. To provide further context, none of the other 21 players to start the game finished with a higher pass completion rate.
It has been his passing that has allowed him to stand out in the Premier League to date. Ødegaard is averaging 4.75 shot creating actions, 5.51 progressive passes and 3.42 passes into the final third per ninety minutes. These best show what the Norwegian offers to the Arsenal team and why the Gunners are starting to become a more fluid side since his arrival. According to the FB Ref comparison tool, the 22-year-old ranks in the 93rd, 93rd and 92nd percentiles respectively in these statistics. He ranks highly in almost every passing statistic.
Further to his impressive passing 8.92 progressive carries per ninety minutes, which ranks in the 91st percentile. Put simply, Ødegaard is very effective at tying the midfield and attack together. However, he will be wanting to improve on his end product as he continues to adapt to the league.
He is averaging 0.15 expected goals (xG) and 0.15 expected assists (xA), ranking in the 34th and 62nd percentiles respectively. Smith-Rowe is less of a goal threat, but he is more creative than his new team-mate based on the underlying numbers to date. The academy graduate is averaging 0.10 xG and 0.24 xA in the Premier League this season.
Ødegaard’s underlying numbers are likely to increase over the coming weeks, as he has now settled in the team and the fixtures are set to ease up in difficulty. If he does continue to perform as he did against West Ham, there will be calls for Arsenal to sign him on a permanent deal.
Real Madrid don’t have the financial strength that they were previously renowned for and it has seen them sell talented young players, such as Sergio Reguilon in recent years. Ødegaard is clearly not rated highly by Zidane and there may be scope to do a permanent deal for a reasonable price. Based on his performances to date, that could prove to be a shrewd move for all involved.