Arsenal’s transfer window plans were dealt a significant blow with today’s news in The Athletic that Martin Ødegaard was likely to remain at Real Madrid this season. Mikel Arteta had made the Norwegian creator his #1 target this summer, after being impressed with his quality during his half-season loan at the Emirates. With Zinedine Zidane in charge at the Bernabeu, the Gunners had a decent chance to pry Ødegaard away from Madrid, but new manager Carlo Ancelotti plans to integrate him next season.
There remains a faint hope for Arsenal — Ødegaard wants to play regularly. That desire was critical to pushing through his January loan to the Emirates. He’d be an immediate, every week starter for Mikel Arteta. Ødegaard has yet to meet with Carlo Ancelotti, so there is a chance he doesn’t like what he hears in terms of his anticipated role next season at Madrid, and if he doesn’t, he may again try to force a move.
But there’s little gloss to be put on this Ødegaard news — it’s not good for Arsenal. The Gunners decided not to get into a bidding war with Aston Villa for Emi Buendia and didn’t add his creativity. Now, Arteta’s primary creative attacking transfer target is likely not to be moving. I’m certain Arsenal have other targets to fill that void in the roster, but as to who they are, your guess is as good as mine.
One possibility Arsenal should explore is Marcel Sabitzer, with whom they’ve been linked in the past but not as much in the current window. The Austrian international is entering the final year of his contract with RB Leipzig and has indicated he’d like a new challenge. His €50M release clause has been a stumbling block in past windows, but his expiring deal and Leipzig’s desire to cut costs could see him move for significantly less, with reports of a sub-€20M price tag.
The bulk of the reporting indicates that Spurs are the most interested party, but Arsenal should at least kick the tires, too. At 27, he doesn’t quite fit the age profile we’d like to see the Gunners target, but the Thomas Partey transfer shows that Edu and Arteta may not have the same age-profile priorities as the armchair squad-builders. Sabitzer still has at least a year or two of “prime” production left in him, and at the rumored transfer prices, he seems like an excellent short- to medium-term option.
Ideally, the Gunners will add another creative attacking player to the roster for next season, but it doesn’t look like it will be Martin Ødegaard. That’s disappointing, but ultimately fine. Arsenal have Emile Smith Rowe to play centrally next season and a less-demanding schedule. Edu should be (and is) looking to strengthen that spot, but hopefully ESR will keep him from panic-buying and / or overpaying.