Arsenal are closing in on the £30m signing of Martin Ødegaard, according to David Ornstein. The Norwegian spent the ladder half of last season on loan at the Emirates. Now, he is set to join the Gunners permanently.
Ødegaard is the player Arsenal chose to purchase, but they were also linked to James Maddison. The Leicester City star was rumoured to move to North London for a fee in the range of £65m.
The Gunners desperately need a number 10 to back up or supplant Emile Smith-Rowe. They chose Ødegaard to fill that whole in the squad. Now it’s a question of whether the Norwegian is the best option.
Ødegaard met up with the Arsenal squad last season at the end of January. He hardly set the world alight when he got there, registering one goal and two assists in about 900 minutes. Maddison on the other hand is a Premier League fixture, spending the last three seasons with the Foxes. The Englishman registered eight goals and five assists in a little over 2,000 minutes last season.
The top line numbers make Maddison look like the clear choice. However, those leave out some key factors. The first thing to consider is age. Ødegaard is more than two years younger than Maddison. Not to say that the Englishman is old, he’s in the beginning of his prime at worst, but those two years are important. They matter when it comes to room for growth and potential resale value down the line.
On top of that, Arsenal is looking to make the squad younger. None of the players purchased this summer are older than 23. With that in mind, the approach for the 22-year-old makes sense.
The difference in rumoured price is also significant. Ødegaard is reported to be at least £30m cheaper than Maddison, if not more. That is a massive disparity. Arsenal, like most clubs, work with limited resources. That extra money could be another player in this summer or down the road.
Looking at the production of the two players, Maddison had a clear advantage last season with his eight goals and five assists. However, he was boosted by overperforming his expected goals (xG) last season, scoring eight goals from 4.4 xG, according to Fbref.com. He was even with his expected assists (xA), creating 5 assists from 5.2 xA.
Maddison’s underlying production has been remarkably consistent since making the leap to the Premier League. In his three seasons at Leicester he’s registered 0.4, 0.42 and 0.42 xG+xA per 90. For comparison, Ødegaard contributed 0.3 xG+xA per 90 in his loan at Real Sociedad and 0.33 xG+xA per 90 last season.
Based on both their top line and underlying numbers, it’s reasonable to say that Maddison is the more productive player right now. The key calculation is to determine how big the disparity in quality is. Then decide whether the other factors make up for that arguable gap.
Arsenal clearly believe in Ødegaard. They brought him in on loan and now have spent a significant resources to make that move permanent. Time will tell whether that faith will be rewarded.