Martin Keown’s initial assessment of Martin Odegaard is starting to look more inaccurate by the day after the Arsenal playmaker’s latest impressive display. The Norwegian was one of the best performers on the pitch as the Gunners recorded a 2-0 win over Leicester on Sunday.
Thomas Partey headed home from a corner to give Mikel Arteta’s side the lead before Alexandre Lacazette struck home a second from the penalty spot, after VAR intervened to penalise Caglar Soyuncu for handball.
But it was Odegaard who proved to be one of the outstanding performers on the day as Arteta’s men made it five wins on the bounce to move back up into the top four.
The 23-year-old was a creative force in the midfield, playing six key passes throughout the match — the joint-highest total by any Arsenal player this season.
His influence in the final third was underlined by the fact he completed 27 passes to team-mates in that area of the pitch, although he did not record an assist.
With every game, the £35million summer signing from Real Madrid is proving his critics wrong — most notably club legend Keown.
Odegaard signed for the Gunners in January 2021 on an initial six-month loan deal before making a permanent move in August after Arteta stated his desire to bring him back.
He was quietly impressive during his loan spell at the Emirates Stadium, scoring three goals and assisting two in his 16 appearances for the club. But Keown at the time felt he wasn’t ready to start games.
“Odegaard, I wouldn’t (start) because it’s almost another project which we haven’t got time for now,” he said, speaking on BT Sport in March 2021.
“We have to win games of football and he’s not ready yet, he’s demonstrated that.”
Later on in the season, Keown even suggested that Emile Smith Rowe would be a better choice in the central role ahead of Odegaard.
“I think Smith Rowe is a better player in that position,” he told talkSPORT.
“But if the manager feels this Odegaard can bring something extra to the group then time will tell again.”
As it turned out, Odegaard has proved to be an important member of the squad and has commanded the role as Arsenal’s chief creator, consigning Smith Rowe to the bench.
After watching him combine superbly with Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli to create several dangerous openings, and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp highlighted his improvement after struggling to make an impression in Madrid.
“He probably joined Real Madrid a little too early and it didn’t work out for him as Zidane was not a huge fan of him.
“He has been out on loan a number of times, and everyone wondered what the next step was going to be for him. He ended up on loan at Arsenal and it has just been the perfect situation for him.
“It took a while for him to bed in but now you can see the ability and confidence he is showing on a weekly basis. He looks like a man who is loving his football now.”
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