Rio Ferdinand crowns ‘nuts’ Arsenal ace player of the year over Haaland after claiming humbling moment changed his career

Pundit Rio Ferdinand

An Arsenal star who was humbled earlier in his career is Rio Ferdinand’s current favourite for Player of the Year ahead of Man City goal machine Erling Haaland.

Almost everything the Gunners touch at present turns to gold. They’re eight points clear of nearest challenger Man City and Pep Guardiola’s side are in the midst of a rare wobble.

Gabriel Jesus’ untimely knee injury was expected to hamper Arsenal’s march towards the Premier League title. However, Eddie Nketiah has done a fine job stepping in, notching four goals in the five matches in which he’s deputised across all competitions.

Granit Xhaka is playing the best football of his career and Mikel Arteta’s decision to stick with the combative midfielder despite past disciplinary issues has been more than justified.

William Saliba has slotted in seamlessly alongside Gabriel Magalhaes, while Ben White has been everything Arsenal fans could’ve hoped for and more while playing out of position at right-back.

The Gunners have missed out on several transfer targets, most notably Joao Felix and Mykhaylo Mudryk. However, if their display against Tottenham on Sunday was anything to go by, Arsenal’s season won’t be defined by who they do or don’t sign this month.

The goals have been shared around in the final third, with Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard all scoring five-plus in the league.

The latter leads the scoring charts with eight, a figure that puts the Arsenal captain already one ahead of his season total in 36 matches last year.

Now, speaking to his Vibe with Five YouTube channel, Man Utd great Rio Ferdinand has labelled the Norwegian his player of the year thus far.

“Odegaard is nuts” – Rio Ferdinand

Explaining why, Ferdinand said: “Odegaard is nuts. Do you know what I like about Odegaard is his journey.

“He was a child superstar at 16, bought by Real Madrid, everyone was saying this kid’s the next [big thing]. He might not be the guy he is now without that part of his history.

“There’s been trials and tribulations, expectations have been through the roof. And all of a sudden he’s had to humble himself, go on loan.

“For a player to go on loan at a much less stature of club with pride and ego, you have to humble yourself, come back, build yourself up then go to Arsenal, take the captaincy and run with it.

“I’d go as far as to say right now, he’s probably my player of the year.

“Haaland’s has done what he’s done, he has been great, don’t get me wrong. If Haaland eases up with the goals and Arsenal win the league and Odegaard continues, he’s my player of the year.”

Haaland numbers superior, but Odegaard impact runs deeper

Odegaard joined Real Madrid at the age of 16 back in 2015 and was heralded as a future superstar at the time.

However, he spent the vast bulk of his six-year tenure out on loan, with a temporary move to the Emirates in 2021 convincing Arsenal to strike six months later.

Odegaard joined the Gunners in a deal that could hit €40m (approx. £35m) pending add-ons. Given the impact he’s already made, that already looks an inspired piece of business.

The 24-year-old leads by example as the skipper and has been near-unplayable as the creator-in-chief this season.

He’s provided five assists to go along with his eight league goals and has 10 attacking contributions across his last ten matches.

Of course, Erling Haaland trumps Odegaard in terms of raw numbers. The City frontman has 21 goals and three assists in just 17 league outings.

However, it’s hard to argue Haaland has actually made City a better team overall given they’re five points worse off than at this stage last season after 18 games played.

If Arsenal do go on to win their first Premier League title since 2004, it’ll be hard to argue against Odegaard if he maintains his current sky high form.

In that scenario, Odegaard’s greatest competition for the award might come from within, such as from Bukayo Saka.

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