Arsenal moved a step closer to a long-awaited return to the Champions League, as goals from Rob Holding and Gabriel earned them a 2-1 victory over West Ham at the London Stadium
That’s the view of Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, who has hailed the decision to give the Norwegian the armband as a “masterstroke”. Arsenal moved back into the Premier League ’s top four on Sunday as goals from Rob Holding and Gabriel helped them a 2-1 win away at West Ham.
The victory was the perfect response to Tottenham beating Leicester City 3-1 in the early kick-off, a result which temporarily moved Spurs above their North London foes in the race for Champions League football. Arteta’s side weren’t at their fluent best against the Hammers, but showed their streetwise credentials to earn what could be a pivotal three points.
And Odegaard was once again central to everything Arsenal did well, helping to dictate the tempo from the heart of the midfield. The 23-year-old has become an integral part of Arteta’s squad since signing permanently from Real Madrid last summer.
But it’s not only his outstanding technical ability which has seen him earn plaudits, with his leadership skills helping him stand out in a dressing room lacking in experience. Having sold Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the January window, Arsenal are without a permanent captain ahead of a long-term decision at the end of the season.
But Odegaard looks to be the leader in the clubhouse, having emerged as Arteta’s on-field lieutenant in recent months and has taken on the armband since Alexandre Lacazette came out of the side through injury.
The Gunners’ search for a captain has been a lengthy one, with the likes of Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka all failing to live up to the responsibility. Xhaka was given the captaincy by Arteta’s predecessor after asking the rest of the squad to vote for a leader.
But Redknapp thinks that identifying Odegaard as the new leader could be a defining moment in his tenure in the Emirates dugout. By bringing him into the team, they might have stumbled across a problem that’s caused Arsenal for a few years…the captaincy,” he explained.
“Xhaka was captain for a while, didn’t really work, [then] Aubameyang, then they give it to Lacazette. It was almost that no-one wanted to be. But giving it to Odegaard, it feels right for me.
“He may not be the most vocal but when you watch him play, he organises people, he plays the right pass. He’s a lovely player to watch.
“You can see from Mikel Arteta’s point of view, he’s almost his manager on the pitch. It might be one where, he’s there for the future, he’s a fantastic player, good type of guy as well. It’s a masterstroke from Arteta.”
Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith concurred with Redknapp and added: “He takes responsibility and that’s quite rare for someone so young. I know a lot of Arsenal fans were asking if they want him back, but there’s not many like him and he’s only going to get better. It’s the youngest side and they are going to grow together and he’s going to be the centre of it all.”