Odegaard is Arsenal’s magician but has one major flaw

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Martin Odegaard of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at Emirates Stadium on January 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Martin Odegaard of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at Emirates Stadium on January 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

It was a case of take your pick in regards to the Arsenal man of the match on Saturday, with the front three behind Alexandre Lacazette all putting in fine displays, while even Cedric impressed at the back.

Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka both scored excellent goals conjured almost entirely out of nothing. They were individual strikes in a game where the team collectively fashioned numerous openings to break the deadlock. At the head of that collective was Martin Odegaard.

The Norwegian pulled all the strings against Brentford. Operating as a right-sided No. 8 he combined elegantly with Saka and Cedric in wide triangles, threading passes through the Bees’ lines and into the box and dragging opposition players out of position.

He’s found a level that he is not relinquishing. Between now and the final game he ever plays for this club there will be an endless stream of praise directed his way. Arsenal have a special talent on their hands.

Arsenal 2-1 Brentford: Martin Odegaard is Arteta’s magician but has one major flaw when it comes to using his right foot to shoot

Everything he does is weighted to perfection, from his touch to his distribution, while he’s blossomed into one of the most aesthetically pleasing footballers the Emirates Stadium has seen since Tomas Rosicky. Watching him would etch a smile across even the weariest face.

But he has one flaw. Unfortunately, it’s an extremely frustrating one. Fortunately, however, it can be coached out of him: there is an undeniable reluctance to use his right foot in key attacking moments.

That’s the one criticism you would grudgingly pick out.

The first example against Brentford came in the first half where he’s carried the ball into the box with Saka just to his right. David Raya had left his right side, and Odegaard’s left, completely vacated for a low shot across goal to nestle into the net. That shot would have been on Odegaard’s right foot. He passed instead.

There were two defenders around but the opening was there. A quick stroke of the foot was all that was needed. You’d always rather the player takes the shot on and misses, with the ball potentially falling anywhere, than dallying. If we’re drawing parallels, Aubameyang missed more chances than Lacazette, but at least he shot.

What is most frustrating about this is that seconds later Odegaard picked up the ball on the edge of the box, dummied to cross with his left foot, cut over onto his right and swung in a delightful delivery with the very foot he refused to shoot from 12 yards with.

Memories cast back to Goodison Park in the Premier League will recall another instance where he insisted on cutting onto his left foot in the box when there was two glorious opportunities to score with his right, just as memories will also cast back to Old Trafford where he did take a shot on with his right and score.

It’s no problem being heavily one-footed if you’re as talented as he is on that side, but that shouldn’t mean rejecting opportunities when they come, especially since he has the ability and capacity to play on both sides.

As noted, however, is that it is coachable. It’s not like he needs teaching how to use his right foot. He very clearly can and it’s just a matter of drilling into him the percentages: taking the shot on first or second time on that side has a greater chance of scoring than cutting back onto your favoured side.

From a visual perspective it can be incredibly frustrating too – there was similar moment in the second  half against Brentford the right foot shot was on – but in his case he does so many majestic elements elsewhere that it can be forgiven. His contributions entirely outweigh these minor instances.

5 talking points from Brentford win. dark. Next

But they are there, and a sit down in front of the highlight reel might just help iron them out.