The player I most fear losing from the starting lineup

A confession. I’ve been living with this shame for about 2 years now.

When the club was exploring winter window options a couple of years ago, I said here and to my gooner friends that I didn’t want Martín Ødegaard. Not because I didn’t think he was good enough. I remember watching compilations of his skills at the time, I thought he looked to have as high a ceiling as I could imagine. If we were going to make moves for the rebuild, I wanted us to buy (or loan with an option to buy) some players that would become permanent building blocks.

I assumed Madrid would never let go of Ødegaard even though they weren’t giving him a chance to play. Couldn’t they see his sublime touch and passing skills, movements eluding defenders ? Reminded me of Ozil (another player they undervalued) in many ways, except most reports said that he was an excellent presser with workrate. Why would any team let this kid go?

What I underestimated was the brilliance of our manager as a teacher and motivator of young players, especially attackers. The evidence is undisputed from Sterling, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus. Sane gives him more credit than Guardiola. The fact that Arteta could sell the project on substance, to a player with just a few months of exposure surprised me.

At that point I still had doubts about Arteta, unlike TA. I guess Edu also deserves credit for sounding out the players agent about his openness to a permanent move, and his frustration at Madrid. The fact that he would push for a permanent move away from Madrid is a credit to Edu and Arteta together.

Now we have a young captain who carries himself as a perfect example of hard work, along with the God given skills. So much so, that even I forget to give him credit after wins because we are so spoiled by his consistency.

His distance covered stats are usually top. He keeps his cool when his teammates Big Gabriel, Xhaka, and others get feisty. Chances created, timing and touch on passes that deserve to be coverted into assists more. Still he shows no frustration outwardly and just goes right back to doing his job leading the press and creating opportunities.

Even with decent backup options in Smith Rowe and Vieira, I think Ødegaard is the player I most fear losing from the starting lineup for even a short time. He’s so good that I’m still apologizing for doubting the wisdom of 2 years ago.


41 thoughts on “The player I most fear losing from the starting lineup

  • Great post, Big Apple J.

    Getting the Ode was indeed a great piece of work by Arteta and Edu. To get a player who has such talent and a Bergkampesque work attitude and love of the game is very special. He just needed to be loved and feel part of ‘a project’ and that is what Mikel and Arsenal BoD are all about.

    I think Granit is actually our captain but the Ode is working closely alongside the Swiss master, and together they lead the team very well.

    Every team needs a player like Martin, but these kind of intrinsically motivated club players are much harder to find these days. I predict there will be a statue of him at tge home of football within ten years.

    Super post, J.

  • Thanks J. Super post, indeed, highlighting the gratitude due to management for bringing our skipper in and for nurturing him so brilliantly. His character is so well formed, a credit to his upbringing and all who have positively influenced him. It takes quite a village to form a Martin Ødegaard.
    Total acknowledges the leadership role which Granit offers too. The NZ All Blacks have what they call a Leadership group within their squad, a strategy that has been in place for the past 15 years and has resulted in unprecedented success including two World Cup victories. Shared leadership and situational leadership (recognising and affirming that different scenarios call for different skill sets) requires humility and a commitment to unity.
    As is rightly pointed out, Mikel, Edu and our Board seem to be flowing in this approach. And it is bearing fruit, attractive, winning football, young, hugely talented squad, growing levels of joyous vociferousness on the terraces, and happy campers all around Planet Arsenal. Long may it continue and, hopefully deservedly capped with silverware.

  • Nice one Johnno, now you’re talking, Leroy Sane, how bout him on loan?

    Odegaard is a wonderful footballer who many take for granted and some even critique and then he misses a game or two and our midfields level drops accordingly and we are reminded of how important he is to the group.

    I’m quietly confident that the Owners, Edu and Arteta are set to provide us with some interesting and exciting recruits over these next two transfer windows as Arteta’s ‘process’ moves us up to the next level, a level that will see us competing in the CL as serious contenders – the future is so exciting to me that I need to drink a big cup of tea to calm myself down….

  • That’s some ringing endorsement of our young skipper there, Jync but not too many will place him in the “most fear losing from the starting line-up” category. Our Nordic Viking brings so much to our approach play in midfield and offensively, in the forward press, which he does feverishly, leading from the front.
    These are vital bits of team play that aren’t evident (and don’t get applauded) to the naked eye, for sure. Plus, when you think of the deft moves which resulted in him joining us after an initial loan spell, you just doff your hat to the management for such a great bit of business. However, when you consider the evidence, absence of any one of the likes of Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka has affected our results more; Gabby Jesus will prove to be same as his absence is bound to result in a sea change in the way we play, tactically and mentally.
    I do not wish to lose out on any of our starting 11, but I guess if it comes down to it, availability of close replacements would be a deciding factor. While Odegaard has close/able replacements in Vieira and ESR, we can’t say the same for Partey, for instance. Surely, we don’t have an equal replacement for GJ9 either and may have to buy/loan a temporary replacement (following his injury lay-off) or tweak with our approach play to compensate.
    If he continues on his current trajectory, Odegaard is sure going to become a crucial, undroppable cog in the team, soon enough.

  • Hi Guys. Trust you’ve all been doing great. Been quite busy lately but have been able to read the fine articles from the previous threads and equally deft contributions of BKers.

    PB, that was a thought provoking entry on Arteta’s “beast of an attacker” and that’s what I am talking about. Gabby’s influence will be difficult to replace, with the present squad.

    TA’s post, afterwards, further brought the fact of GJ’s injury into focus. Hope he recovers quicker than the assessments suggest. I like that Arteta has started early to take the team for warm weather training and friendlies. The adjustments start from there, as we must keep the momentum going.

  • Great comments during the night. Love your synopsis on leadership, Stu, and also the visionary finish to your comment. One can tell it is almost summer in your neck of the woods! 😁

  • Thanks a lot for this, J. – it had to be said
    I have to admit that I had my doubts, too. Not because I hadn’t liked what I’d seen of Martin, but mainly because Real are not used to releasing the players they strongly believe in. With Zidane at the helm, and assessing him in training day in day out, I thought he/they had concluded his ceiling wasn’t as far above his floor as it is needed to become their N°1 playmaker.
    They were wrong, and Mikel-Edu were right, as you point out. One thing they’ve done in particular is unveil the boy’s steel under his smooth surface. Not that the lad will throw himself into reckless tackles, or that he’ll waste time barking into the refs’ faces of course, but he has made the most of Mikel’s trust in him – of his advice, too – displaying the stamina, the focus, the ability to resist PL physical challenges, the aura to bring together our lads around him in difficult moments which is on a par with some of the most influential captains this club has known.

  • The Kiwi summer is still asleep, Total. We have had the wettest Spring in my lifetime. I had a wonderful Kiwi encounter last week. Returning through the bush from fishing off the rocks a fully mature male Brown Kiwi crossed my track and stood in my torch light for about ten seconds. First time I have ever seen one in the wild (tho’ we hear them calling most nights).

    In answer to your question in the last post, other than giving Eddie and Gabbie every opportunity in the role, I would give Zaha a two/three year offer. Always loved the player, a Gooner himself, can play wide or up top, premiership proven, not injury prone, current contract with Palace ends in the summer, motivated to prove himself at the highest level, and is a joy to watch.

  • Sorry to hear it’s so wet there, Stuart. It must like Scotland…?! 🤩

    Zaha is a great shout. He’d make a real difference and deserves such a move to.

  • Good point on the leadership, Stuart.
    I don’t want to undercut Arteta’s merits, but he is working from a very rich material leadership-wise.

    Granit Xhaka is the long-time captain of the Swiss squad.
    Odegaard is the undisputed captain and leader of Norway.
    Zinchenko often captains his fellow Ukranians in the national team.
    Partey is the leader of Ghana, wore the armband many times, but his injuries prevented him to be the long-term captain.
    William Saliba was the captain of France U21 in 80% of the time.
    Tierney is a young player, often injured and has competition at LB, yet he was captain in some games.
    Aaron Ramsdale has been a recurring captain for England U21.
    Lokonga was the record-youngest captain of Anderlecht before he signed for us.
    Fabio Vieira was the captain for Porto B as well as Portugal U21.
    Similarly Nketiah has been the primary captain for England U21 and also wore the armband for Arsenal U23 in a few games.

    Many of our past players have been acting as captains in their respective clubs and national teams (M’khi, Auba, Leno, Sokratis, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Lacazette, Guendouzi, Luiz, Ramsey, Lichtsteiner), so when it comes to leadership abilities Arsenal is always a club with various and strong candidates.

  • You are so right, PB. Rich material indeed. A veritable cornucopia of experienced leadership talent.

    You know, Total, I have visited Scotland five times, always in the summer for periods of between 1 – 3 weeks and I have only ever experienced two days of rain there.
    You seem to know a bit about our females, mate. Yep, the Kiwi Sheila is bigger than its male counterpart. You wouldn’t believe the size of their eggs. There is a distinct difference in their call, and I heard the male before I saw it. And we had a bonding moment when we talked fishing and football… 😁

  • All good leadership additions, PB. The added thing with the Ode is that he has a licence to thrill which makes him an even better player. I am with J that MO is (at least one of) the hardest to miss in the starting 11.

  • Hahaha, Stu, I can well picture you and the dapper kiwi having a tête a tête in the semi wilderness. I guess my number one question would be what he makes of the name of their species, so often bring confused with that ugly looking fruit..

  • Good spot, PB, on our recruitment of leaders, deliberate or not. That must be how Wenger and Arteta often state that “we have many captains” in the side. I also agree Zaha would be a good addition, for the cover but he has to accept he may have to come on from the bench a bit, soon as GJ9 is fit. Or, would anyone drop Martinelli for him?

  • Ah, one mustn’t judge a fruit by its skin, Total. Have you ever come across this passage from Isaiah 53 : 1? “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
    Clumsy and, perhaps irreverent an allusion, as it was with the piercing of Our Lord, so cut a kiwi and that magnificent interior is revealed, originally green, now available (through the ‘wonders’ of genetic engineering) in gold and red. The fruit came to New Zealand in the early part of last century, introduced from China by folk fleeing the ‘cultural’ revolution. For decades they were called “Chinese gooseberries”. Sanctions on China meant that they were disregarded, until a smart fellow had the idea to change the name to Kiwifruit. He and a few others became overnight millionaires, and what was ammunition for us as kids in our street battles became one of our primary exports.
    “Kiwi” like most bird names is an onomatopoeic, and it is its brown feathers which led to the lending of its name to the furry brown fruit.

    We, New Zealanders are also known as “Kiwis”, not because we are necessarily brown and furry or that we call out “Keee weee” in the night, but rather that it is our national bird, and that we are somewhat lazy in our modes of speech preferring “Giddaye mate, I’m a kiwi” to the more expansive introduction, “I am a New Zealander” or, as your country man, Able Tasman would have had it, “Ik ben een Nieuw-Zeelander”.

    Sorry for the long post. I am bored and somewhat emotionally detached with England out of the World Cup and the proper football still a fortnight away from resumption.

  • Eris, agreed. Zaha would be competing with Martinelli and that is fine for a big club like Arsenal.

    I do feel that we will not have Martinelli for years to come, though. So extra options are welcome.

  • Haha, great insights and pearls of wisdom re the kiwi. Good to know the fruit was named after the bird. It’s also true that that a kiwi 🥝 is beautiful inside.

    The kiwi bird is clearly loved and honoured in your country. Is it also a protected species?

  • Ah, TA. I don’t look forward to losing Martinelli, seeing that he is so young but, as it is with most Brazilian kids, he probably dreams of wearing a Madrid or Barca shirt someday. Zaha is 30 years old and is not a like-for-like replacement (Martinelli tracks back, joins the defending and retrieves the ball a lot) to help us for years to come.

    Lovely insights into the origins of the Kiwi fruit and links to the bird. Always great to have new knowledge about things in such common use. Boredom is good on you, Stuart.

  • “Protected”?! We spend half of our GDP on keeping the little critters alive.
    Thanks Eris and Total. My personal favourite NZ bird is the Tui. A song like no other, whirrs, whistles, clicks, bells, they are mimics, able to send you running into the house to answer a non existent telephone call. Their plumage is ethereal in its beauty, their wingbeat loud, their courage extraordinary, they will often fly within inches of your head just to let you know you are in their world.

    My maternal grandfather was a Croatian, so I am still somewhat invested in events in the desert.

    A little buzz about Felix out there in dreamland.

  • Great stuff, Stui 😀

    I’d love to get to know all the birds of a feathery kind (mind you) in your neck of the woods.

    Here is Scotland we have the capercaillie. Like the unicorn, everybody knows what it looks like but very few have seen them in the wild.

  • Arsenal 2 Milan 0 (Odegaard x2)
    Martin’s thank you for your post, I guess, J.
    The first one – a FK – was a thing of beauty

  • Arsenal 2-0 AC Milan at half time.

    Odegaard opened the scoring from a free kick in the 21st minute, and Nelson doubled the lead in the 42nd after a terrible short pass has been intercepted by Vieira and assisted Reiss selflessly.
    If the boys keep the patter, we should be going 3-0 in the 63rd minute. 🙂

  • Tomori scored a consolation goal in the 77th minute (against a much rejuvenated Arsenal side), but eventually our boys prevailed and won the game by 2:1.

    In the upcoming penalty shootout duel Arsenal collected the extra point as all our players scored but Matt Smith, while Hein saved the penalty of former Man City and Real Madrid attacking midfielder Brahim Diaz and Krunic, Milan’s 5th player shot the final ball wide of the post.

    Arsenal are Dubai Super Cup champions! with 2 wins and 2 penalty victories!!!

  • Alas! It ended 2-1 and then there was penalty kicks (I have no idea why; something to do with competition rules, I guess).

    Only got in on the game towards the end. Fine workout for the available first teamers and the kids.

  • PB, thanks for that clarification. Didn’t read on the tournament’s points (scoring) rules.

  • A very enjoyable afternoon, great to see White and Partey purring like a well tuned engine, Hein looks as competent with the ball at his feet as Ramsdale, a nice run-Out and onto Juve. Forza Arsenal…

  • It’s a strange, but not illogical set of rules, Eris. There are 4 teams playing, but they don’t match every other squad, only 2-2. So in order to have a better mode of comparison, they award 3 points for a 90-minute victory (1-1 for a draw), and a further one whoever wins a mandatory penalty duel.

    So the maximum points a team can collect is 8 (4-4 from their 2 games), and Arsenal just managed to do so, scoring 5 and conceding only one, while Hein saved 3 penalties.
    It was a good workout, keeping the spirits and the confidence up, and prevent the trash talks about those players of the squad who didn’t go to Qatar.

  • Messi the Wizard
    What the other players see as a pitch, he sees as a Tesseract, just like “Cooper” in “Interstellar”

  • I would like you all to know that as of this morning I’m officially CANCER FREE!!! Thank you all for your support and prayers – special appreciation goes out to Stuart and his prayer group.

    I’m one very relieved and grateful octogenarian.

  • Woop woop and Hallelujah! GN5, that is wonderful news. Let’s hope you and we finally get to see The Arsenal win the Champions League. I’ll pass your message on to our prayer team.
    Much love, mate.

  • “I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
    Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
    Life, I love you, all is groovy”

    Hats off to the docs … and to the Wrestler whose care they were involved in

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