By Aaron Catterson-Reid
Arsenal completed the permanent signing of long-term target Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid this week.
The Norway captain spent the second half of last season on loan in north London, featuring in 20 games across all competitions.
Odegaard consistently showcased his talent last term, impressing Gunners' boss Mikel Arteta, who then convinced him to return to Emirates Stadium this summer.
The 22-year-old demonstrated an impressive ability to unlock defences with his technical nous and exceptional vision. The Gunners have struggled to break down deep blocks since Mesut Ozil departed the club but Odegaard helped improve this towards the latter stages of last term.
He registered 4.39 shot-creating actions per game in the league last season, with 3.54 of those coming from open play, a tally that was bettered by only four players in the English top-flight. Comparatively, no other Arsenal player managed more than 2.7 in the same time frame.
Furthermore, the diminutive playmaker also averaged 0.22 xA (expected assists) and 2.19 key passes per 90 minutes, placing him 15th in the league in both of those categories, an impressive feat when you consider he had just five months to adjust to a new league and a new system.
Odegaard can also break down defences with his dribbling ability. The talented midfielder has a notable ability to manipulate the ball, providing 8.13 progressive carries per game over the course of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign. Only 10 midfielders in the league were able to match him in this regard.
The Norwegian also showcased his outstanding talent during his time on loan with La Liga outfit Real Sociedad. There were only five players in the Spanish top-flight that could match his 116 shot-creating actions in the 2019/20 season and only three could top his 89 passes into the final third.
Only six players in La Liga could top his 63 successful dribbles last campaign, with only one of those able to record a higher success rate.
Furthermore, only three players were able to complete more progressive carries as well as carries into the final third.
Throughout his spell in north London, Odegaard demonstrated tactical versatility, proficiently operating as both a no.8 in a 4-1-4-1 and as a more traditional number 10 in Arteta's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
He also has been frequently deployed on the right flank for his national side, meaning that he can easily play in a fluid frontline with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Nicolas Pepe or Bukayo Saka.
Saka and Odegaard were able to occupy similar positions in the right half-space, combining well between the lines to cut in on their favoured left foot, frequently sliding in both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alexandre Lacazette in central positions.
Despite the former Real Madrid midfielder's impressive creative numbers, Odegaard also has impressive ball retention skills, rarely ever losing the ball. In fact, only two Premier League attacking midfielders averaged a higher passing accuracy (86.4%) than the Norwegian, one of which was the aforementioned Smith Rowe.
Not a single Premier League attacking midfielder (that played more than 500 minutes) was dispossessed less than the 22-year-old who lost control of the ball on just 11 occasions.
The Gunners may opt to play him alongside Smith Rowe due to their rare blend of exceptional ball retention and creative nous. Arteta deployed a lineup against Tottenham in March that saw the English youngster on the left flank in a team that allowed Kieran Tierney to stay high and wide, letting the Hale End graduate double up in central areas with Odegaard, who started the match the number 10 role.
At just 22-years-old, the Gunners' new playmaker has plenty of room to grow even more in a young Arsenal team that has plenty of promise.
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