Thursday, June 1, 2023

Here we gØ

Only one place to start this morning and that’s late night reports from Spain that Arsenal and Real Madrid are in ‘advanced’ talks over the transfer of Martin Odegaard.

AS, the Madrid based daily, described the deal as ‘imminent’, and later David Ornstein Tweeted that while there were still some things to sort out, we’d be paying a fee of around €35m to bring the Norwegian international in on a permanent basis. Quite often, Real want to add buy-back clauses to players they sell (just in case), and while these are rarely activated, that’s not going to be part of this deal.

Odegaard did train yesterday, but did so away from the main group in order to ensure he didn’t pick up an injury which might scupper the transfer. Given his history with us and lines of communication, you have to assume that personal terms are not an issue at this point, so it comes down to how quickly the two clubs can get everything sorted out. If it happens quickly enough, he could be in the squad to face Chelsea on Sunday, and while that game feels like quite a daunting task at this moment in time, it would be slightly less so with an addition like this.

I’ve felt all along that Odegaard was our number one target this summer, and I don’t think links to James Maddison really stood up to a great deal of scrutiny. Mikel Arteta knows and loves the player; Martin knows the club, the Premier League, and most of his teammates, so we’re not facing any issues of adaptation; and €35m for a 22 year old who has his best years in front of him really feels like a good deal to me.

We need more creativity, we need someone who can supplement and support Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, and I think Odegaard can do that. I realise his numbers were a bit underwhelming during his loan spell, with two goals and two assists in 20 games, and while I’m not making any excuses for him, I do think that ankle injury he sustained on international duty was more serious than we knew. I believe he has the talent and the ability to deliver much more than that over the course of a full season.

The other thing about this signing is that it’s future-proofed against any changes to the manager. Whatever you think about Arteta, where we are right now and where we might be going, the fact the club are signing players in their early 20s feels like the right thing to do as we look to rebuild. Obviously we’d all like to see a bit more, but as a strategy, it makes sense. If Arteta is moved on, the next man isn’t having to come in and tear absolutely everything up to start again. The pieces he will have to pick up haven’t been smashed into smithereens. It’s not iron-clad to prevent issues/problems down the line, but it’s far preferable to blasting money at players in the September of their careers whose agents are cronies of the Technical Director.

It’s why, even if he wouldn’t be my first choice, signing Aaron Ramsdale would – in my opinion anyway – be better than giving a long contract to Neto, a 32 year old Kia Joorabchian client who has been a back-up keeper his whole life. Ramsdale would have plenty to prove if he arrived with the kind of price-tag attached (and it looks as if there might well be some movement with regards to that deal after Sheffield United came back to the table), but at least he could potentially do it. A bloke who scratched around in Italy and Spain without ever being convincing just can’t. Plus, we’re not paying a lazy commission to a bloke who has given this club David Luiz, Cedric and Willian – at what point do we learn to stay away from his garbage?

Going back to Odegaard, I think there’s something quite interesting about his trajectory. Let me make it clear, I’m not comparing him directly to the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, but down the years some of our best transfers have come from highly rated players who went to big clubs where it didn’t quite work for them. Bergkamp at Inter Milan, Henry at Juventus (even Vieira at AC Milan to an extent, although he was much younger). It means the new guy arrives with something to prove, and after all the hype that surrounded Odegaard’s move to Madrid as a teenager, that he hasn’t succeeded there should be a real motivating factor for him as and when his move to Arsenal is complete.

I also think as fans we need to be realistic about the kind of players we can attract right now. You can’t, on the one hand, lambast the team for being rubbish and out of Europe and, on the other, expect to be able to sign the top talent. It just doesn’t work like that. In that context, I think this is an opportunity to sign a really good player at exactly the right age for a reasonable price, even in this market. Let’s hope they get it done asap.

Right, I’ll leave it there for now, have yourselves a good Wednesday.

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