Mikel Arteta says Martin Odegaard brings “special qualities” that Arsenal have been missing, and has not ruled out the possibility of turning his loan into a permanent move.
Odegaard joined the Gunners on loan from Real Madrid on Wednesday and could make his debut when Manchester United visit the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
The 22-year-old struggled to break into the Madrid side this season, playing just nine times, leading Arteta to call for him to be given time to find his feet at his new club.
But Arteta is excited at Odegaard’s arrival and believes he can help to supply the creativity that was once provided by Mesut Ozil, who finally left Arsenal to join Fenerbahce earlier this week.
Arteta said: “He’s a player that we followed for some time and we believe that he’s got some special qualities that we need, that we have been missing.
“Now we have to give him a little bit of time. He hasn’t played that many minutes in Madrid, but he’s been training hard and he looks so excited, as we are to have another big talent at our club.
“He’s a specialist to play in the pocket, to be in the No 8 and No 10 positions. He can play off the side. A really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces. The capacity to create chances, to score goals.
“Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball. It’s another option to give us more creativity in the final third and to set in different ways against certain teams.”
Odegaard is scheduled to return to Madrid at the end of the season, but Arteta believes a permanent switch could be possible should the Norwegian international make a positive impression in north London.
“He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for for that position,” he said. “It will be down to two things. First of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team.
“Second, what Real Madrid and the player think about it. Obviously he’s owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that.”
While Arteta is understandably excited about the arrival of a player who made his international debut when he was still only 15 years old, he downplayed the comparisons to Lionel Messi that were made earlier in Odegaard’s career.
“My suggestion is we don’t even get close to that name [Messi] because it’s a lost battle, in my opinion,” said Arteta. “Martin is Martin.
“I think in the last few seasons he’s progressed and developed in the right way. I’ve followed him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad, which is my hometown, and I know him really well. I’ve been really impressed. He’s such a talent.”
‘Man Utd can beat any team in the world’
Arsenal go into Saturday’s clash against United on the back of a six-game unbeaten run in the Premier League that has helped to bury memories of their early-season struggles.
The Gunners are now up to ninth in the table having previously spent time hovering above the relegation zone, and could close the gap on second-placed United to seven points with a win at the Emirates.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side slipped up at home to bottom-placed Sheffield United on Wednesday – and have not beaten Arsenal in over two years – but Arteta is not getting carried away.
He said: “I think every game is completely different. They have the capacity and the quality to beat any side in the world.
“We know that we’re going to have to be at our best. The demands of this game are going to be huge.
“They’ve been in top form, they’ve been top of the table, they’ve been playing really well. We know they are a real threat, so we have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday.”
Arsenal could be without captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against United, though, after he missed their last two games to be with his mother, who has been suffering from health issues.
Arteta refused to answer questions on whether Aubameyang had travelled abroad and if quarantine rules would therefore prevent him from facing United, simply saying: “He had to support his family and he had to be with them.”
Pushed on the matter of potential quarantine if he did travel, Arteta said: “I don’t know what will happen.”
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