Premier League • England

‘He’s almost like a manager’; pundit hails Arteta masterstroke as Arsenal ‘problem’ solved

Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal celebrates with Cedric Soares and Martin Odegaard after he scores a penalty against Leicester

Pundit Jamie Redknapp has praised the decision by Mikel Arteta to hand Martin Odegaard the Arsenal captaincy in recent games.

Odegaard, 23, has been given the armband from the start of the Gunners past four games. And it has been a successful run for the north London outfit, with defeat to Southampton followed by three straight wins. It has seen the Emirates side take pole position in the race for a top-four spot.

With four games left to play this term, they sit fourth and are two points better off than rivals Tottenham. And with Chelsea dropping points in their last two matches, third place is now not out of the question.

Odegaard has played a full part in 2021-2022, making 28 starts among 32 Premier League appearances. The Norway international has bagged six goals and four assists.

Alexandre Lacazette was handed the captaincy following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s winter departure to Barcelona. But the France international has not started any of Arsenal’s past four games.

Arteta chose Odegaard to stand in for the Frenchman and Redknapp is in favour of the decision.

“I think as well, by bringing him into the team, they might have just stumbled across a problem that’s caused Arsenal for a few years – the captaincy,” he said on Sky Sports.

“Xhaka was captain for a while, didn’t really work, Aubameyang, then they give it to Lacazette, it was almost like no one wanted to be. But, by giving it to Odegaard, it feels right for me.”

Odegaard has leadership traits

The Arsenal captaincy has become something of a poisoned chalice in recent times. Granit Xhaka was given the job but had it taken away after his angry reaction when being booed by his own fans.

Aubameyang took over in 2019 but his poor disciplinary record saw the Gabon veteran demoted in December last year. Lacazette stepped up but is no longer an automatic starter.

And the 30-year-old is likely to leave the club this summer as he will be out of contract. That leaves the way open for Odegaard to continue in the role.

The Scandinavian is not the type of player to shout from the rafters. But Redknapp believes his football brain and talent commands respect.

“He might not be the most vocal, but when you watch him play, he organises people, plays the right pass, he’s a lovely footballer to watch, so intelligent,” he added. “You can see from Mikel Arteta’s point of view, he’s almost like his manager on the pitch.

Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette

“The captaincy has been a major problem at Arsenal, now that they’ve given it to him. He’s there for the future, he’s a fantastic player, you can see he’s a good guy as well. That’s a bit of a masterstroke from Mikel Arteta.”

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