Mikel Arteta admits new boy Martin Odegaard has always fought a ‘losing battle’ after being compared to Lionel Messi as a teenager, and Arsenal boss leaves the door open to a permanent move from Real
- Martin Odegaard completed his loan move to Arsenal on Wednesday
- Arsenal’s new star was only 16 when he signed for Real Madrid in 2015
- Mikel Arteta has handed the Norwegian star Mesut Ozil’s No 11 shirt
- He is in contention to make the squad to face Manchester United on Saturday
Mikel Arteta says it was unfair of people to compare Martin Odegaard to Lionel Messi early in his career because that is only ever a ‘losing battle’ for a player.
Arsenal signed the Real Madrid attacking midfielder on loan until the end of the season on Wednesday, handing him the No 11 shirt that used to belong to Mesut Ozil, and he is taking part in his first full training session on Thursday.
Odegaard is in contention to make the squad against Manchester United on Saturday, and Arteta adds this loan is an audition for the 22-year-old to stay at Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta spoke on Thursday ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Manchester United on Saturday
Martin Odegaard trained with his new team-mates after arriving on loan from Real Madrid
Arteta believes comparisons between Odegaard and Lionel Messi (left) are unfair
‘I wouldn’t even get close to that name you just mentioned (Messi) because it’s a lost battle in my opinion,’ Arteta said. ‘Martin is Martin.
‘In the last few seasons he’s progressed and developed in the right way. I follow him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad which is my hometown and I know him really well.
‘He’s such a talent. He needs the right environment, a little bit of time, but he’s got the qualities to be a success for us. He’s a specialist playing in the pockets, to be in the No 8, No 10 positions.
‘He can play on the sides, a really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, the capacity to create chances, to score goals.
‘Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball as well. It’s another option to give us more creativity in the final third.’
Odegaard was just 16 when he joined Real Madrid from Sromsgodset in January 2015
The 22-year-old has joined Arsenal on loan from the Bernabeu until the end of the season
Asked whether the move could be made permanent once his loan is over, Arteta said: ‘He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for.
‘Then it would be down to two things – first of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team, and second, what Real Madrid and the player thinks about it because he’s owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that.’
It appears unlikely that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available for United. The 31-year-old has been absent because his mother is unwell.
Arteta would not say whether the striker had been abroad and whether that would have complications upon his return due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Odegaard struggled for form for Madrid this season after returning from Real Sociedad loan
The Norwegian international will wear the No 11 shirt at the Emirates this season
Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe are also trying to overcome niggles to be fit to face United.
On whether Odegaard could start against United, Arteta said: ‘That’s a little bit too early to decide but we’ll see how he goes in training. We’ll see him, don’t worry.
‘He’s a player we followed for some time and we believe he’s got some special qualities that we need, that we have been missing.