Tuesday, October 26 2021

Mikel Arteta hailed Martin Odegaard’s leadership qualities on Tuesday after the Norway midfielder was instrumental in leading Arsenal’s recovery from a poor start to their Premier League campaign.

Odegaard’s pin-point free-kick handed the Gunners a 1-0 victory at Burnley last weekend as Arsenal responded to losing their first three games in the league with back-to-back wins.

Odegaard, 22, joined Arsenal permanently from Real Madrid in August for £30 million ($41 million) after impressing during a loan spell last season, making 20 appearances in all competitions.

“We are building some leadership in the group,” said Arteta before Wednesday’s tie against third-tier AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the League Cup.

“Martin has this capacity to do that with his talent, taking the ball where others probably refuse to, but as well with his attitude, rhythm and the way he presses.”

Arsenal have also kept two consecutive clean-sheets after conceding nine goals in their three defeats, shutting out Norwich in a 1-0 win at the Emirates before withstanding Burnley’s physicality.

Arteta credited Odegaard — who captains his country — with leading by example.

Reflecting on Arsenal’s defensive work, the Spaniard added: “He is probably the first to do it.

“It was a real commitment and purpose. You can tell when you are really doing it or when you’ve been told to do it. There was a big meaning behind it.”

Arteta is under pressure to deliver after Arsenal finished a disappointing eighth in the Premier League in 2020/21 and endured their worst start to a league campaign in 67 years this season.

Fan discontent had been brewing after the club’s slow start to the season, with boos echoing around the Emirates Stadium after a 2-0 loss to Chelsea.

But Arteta — who had reportedly been given four games to save his job after the last international window — recognised the bond between the players and supporters after the Burnley game.

“There was some connection building. The players have to show that appreciation and gratitude,” Arteta said.

“That only brings more cohesion, more connection and closer relationships — that will strengthen the team for sure.”

imm/smg/iwd

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