Mikel Arteta agrees that Martin Odegaard is near his best and says the midfielder is a natural leader.
Signed from Real Madrid permanently at the end of August, the Norway international scored an important goal against Burnley in his third appearance of the season only to disappear as a separate pre-season seemed to catch up with him.
Three goals in four matches and a well-disciplined performance against West Ham United on Wednesday seem to have drawn a line under his struggles and he now appears to be one of the first names on the squad.
Having spent £34m on the 23-year-old, Arteta is excited that the player is realizing his potential.
“He is very, very young but already has a lot of experience in different clubs and in international football,” he said before Arsenal’s trip to Leeds.
“I agree that in the last few weeks he has come very close to his best form. The ceiling for him, I don’t know where he is, with the talent he has, the desire he has, how much he always wants to improve and improve. We have a tremendous player there.”
Captain of his country, it has been suggested that Odegaard could be one of the candidates to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if Mikel Arteta decides the club needs someone to take the captaincy permanently. He spoke in glowing terms about the player’s character last season and nothing has changed.
“He’s a natural leader,” Arteta said. “If you’re looking for the perfect professional, he’s not far from it.”
While Odegaard was getting minutes from aligning with Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli, the club’s record signing, Nicolas Pepe, was stuck on the bench wondering when he might next kick the ball in a rage.
The Ivory Coast international, who is scheduled to take part in the Africa Cup of Nations at the end of this month, has only played 13 minutes in the Premier League since mid-October.
“Obviously with the number of games we have, there is not enough space for all these players,” Arteta said.
“With Nico’s situation, it’s the same. I’ve highlighted on many occasions that it is (based on) what I see every day. That’s with Nico as well. But he needs more chances to show what he can do and in the last few games, he didn’t have those chances.” “.
Arteta has also been sympathetic to those who ask why the striker didn’t get more chances to play given his inappropriate contribution last season.
“I should try to make that decision about what I see every day,” he said. “And to be fair, Nico is really ready and willing to help the team. The truth is that the position he plays, Bukayo was playing regularly there and he was fantastic. So it wasn’t easy for him to find that time.”