Arsenal’s 1-1 Europa League draw against Benfica on Thursday night saw the Gunners produce some moments of magic, and yet they were still lacking in certain areas.
There were plenty of occasions when Martin Odegaard in particular found himself in oceans of space but he wasn’t picked out by a team-mate despite being well-placed.
Former Arsenal legend, Martin Keown, suggested that, perhaps, the Norwegian’s fitness was found wanting at times, and given he was new to the No.10 role that Emile Smith-Rowe was playing with aplomb, Odegaard needed to get up to speed first before he could showcase his best work.
“A lot of the problems for the Arsenal team is finding that spare player,” Keown said on BT Sport post-match, cited by The Sun.
“It’s been Smith Rowe in the recent run. Odegaard has been given the luxury of playing in there.
“We’re still waiting to see, I think there’s a player under there but he’s not played much football for Real Madrid, maybe seven or eight games this season, maybe a bit short of fitness.
“But if you don’t give him the ball you can’t see what he’s capable of, but there were moments when he had the ball, good passes.
“He does really well for the goal, he’s a player they want to try and build around.
“The reservations I have is Smith Rowe was playing especially well in that position.
“Now, perhaps he [Arteta] didn’t feel he was getting enough from [Nicolas] Pepe defensively so Smith Rowe’s gone into that position. Now you’ve got Saka and Smith Rowe in wide positions.
They have really good movement, tuck inside nicely, they give that space for the full-backs to get wide and they know when to press.
“But maybe they lose a little bit, for the time being, until Odegaard is ready to match speed. There were glimpses of really good play.”
Tactically, Arsenal need to improve in certain aspects and it’s bound to take Odegaard a while to settle.
That said, when in possession he was accomplished on the ball, and was happy to shoulder the responsibility in the middle of the park when needed.
It’s easy to see why Mikel Arteta appears impressed with his loan signing, and it’ll be down to the Spaniard to fit all of the exciting youngsters into a team that’s looking to replicate the glory days.