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.