Well, that didn't take long. After only a few days after initial speculation began to surface, David Ornstein confirmed today that Martin Ødegaard of Real Madrid will be joining Arsenal on loan until the end of the 20-21 Premier League season following a medical on Monday.
Martin Odegaard loan from Real Madrid to Arsenal agreed. 22yo scheduled to fly to London later on Sunday & have medical on Monday. Elite sportsperson exemption means no isolation via negative #COVID19 test. With @gunnerblog for @TheAthleticUK #RMFC #AFC https://t.co/HtPlsV2bEL— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) January 24, 2021
With the financial bind from the lost revenue due to COVID-19, Arsenal have had to navigate the winter transfer window with a very narrow approach. Following the departure of Mesut Ozil from the club last week, the first step - offloading surplus players - has been well underway. The second step was always going to be the tough one - acquiring players to fill crucial positions of need. Without substantial funds, loans have become the primary source of incoming transfers, as evidenced with the loan of Mat Ryan from Brighton just a few days ago.
Loans are never the preferred option, especially not when trying to rebuild a squad. As Aaron stated as the Ødegaard rumors began to pick up last week, it’s usually not in a club’s best interest to develop talent for another club. In this case, however, Arsenal could not have done much better given their circumstances. Emile Smith-Rowe has become Arsenal’s primary creative force in the midfield, and with Ozil off to ply his trade in Turkey, the Gunners are in desperate need of an attacking midfielder to bolster the previously-inept attack and spell the Hale End product. Ødegaard’s loan fits that bill perfectly and is a huge sigh of relief for many reasons.
Until Smith-Rowe’s emergence at the beginning of January, Arsenal were missing a creator in the midfield to progress the ball, create chances, and unlock the low block that defenses had been deploying to negate the Gunner’s deliberate, methodical, cut-back-heavy attack. A dynamic dribbler and passer, Ødegaard has made a name for himself with his knack for beating defenders on the dribbler and beating back lines with penetrating passes. While not a prolific goal scorer, he isn’t afraid to shoot, and he is a player that gives opposing teams fits with his eye for the pass and composure on the ball.
But Ødegaard is not just a creative midfielder - he has been considered one of the world’s most promising young talents for quite some time. By 15, he was the youngest player to ever feature in Norway’s Tippeligaen and in the same year became the youngest player to debut for Norway’s national team. By 17, he had signed for Real Madrid, and following a series of loans, rejoined the first team at the beginning of the current season. Unfortunately for the 22 year old, match time has been hard to come by, as evidenced by his seven league appearances this season.
A tremendous amount of credit is due to Mikel Arteta, who has been cited as the main reason for Ødegaard’s decision to come to Arsenal. Many outlets have reported that a conversation with Arsenal’s manager persuaded the midfielder to join Arsenal on loan, who sold Ødegaard on the prospect of game time. Although Arsenal are now out of the FA Cup following this weekend’s loss to Southampton, there will still be ample opportunity for the young Norwegian to see the pitch. The Gunners are still within a shout of the top six in the Premier League, and the knockouts of the Europa League are set to begin next month. For as exciting as Smith-Rowe has been, that’s a lot of soccer for a young player who is still fairly new to the top flight.
Financially, the loan is a steal. In addition to covering the Ødegaard’s weekly salary of £38,000, the Gunners will pay Real Madrid a loan fee of £2.5m. For perspective, he will be making only £2,000 less per week than Alex Runnarson and over £150,000 less per week than Willian. There is no obligation to buy, but there have been indications that Real Madrid would consider selling at the end of the season.
Since he is joining the club on loan, there won’t be much time for acclimation. It is safe to assume that Ødegaard will not be ready to feature for Arsenal by Tuesday’s league match with Southampton, but there is a chance he could feature by Saturday’s massive match with league leaders Manchester United.
Overall, this has the makings of one of the smartest moves Arsenal could make, all things considered. Ødegaard is young, talented, hungry for game time, and creative. While we all want to see our current players continue to improve and develop, having another young talent to compete for game time and push them to improve cannot be anything other than good.