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Martin Odegaard looking to lead Arsenal’s youngsters having ‘been through a lot’

Martin Odegaard has emerged as a leader for Arsenal on the pitch.
(Image credit: Anthony Devlin)

Martin Odegaard does not believe he needs to wear the captain’s armband to be a leader on the pitch for Arsenal.

The 23-year-old is hoping to use his rise as a teenage sensation to help the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe cope under the pressure.

The Norway skipper has been spoken about as a potential future Arsenal captain and has seen his leadership abilities talked up by manager Mikel Arteta.

Odegaard has already been playing top-tier football for eight years and, although Alexandre Lacazette, Kieran Tierney and Rob Holding are the go-to for the armband at the moment, he has experience in that area.

Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Cedric Soares

Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Cedric Soares (Julian Finney/PA)

“I’ve been through a lot, you know,” he told the PA news agency.

“I went to Real Madrid when I was 16, I played in Norway at 15 and I’ve been to some different clubs on loan and I feel like I’ve been through a lot.

“That helped me to grow up and to feel more confident and to use that in a good way now.

“Of course, it’s a bit more responsibility with being captain for your country but I don’t feel like I’ve changed after that. I think I’m the same person.

“I would do the same things if I wasn’t the captain there and I would always try to help the team so to me that’s not the most important thing.”

While the move to Madrid was ultimately doomed to fail, Odegaard used the experience, coupled with spells out on loan in Holland, Spain and finally at Arsenal, to develop.

Thrust into the media spotlight at such a tender age could have been the undoing for a player so well protected during his formative years at Stromsgodset – but not for Odegaard.

“I was so into football so I didn’t think of everything around me,” he said.

“I just wanted to play and have fun and also in Norway when I started playing there was a lot of attention in the media and all those kinds of things.

Odegaard spent time out on loan at Real Sociedad earlier in his career.

Odegaard spent time out on loan at Real Sociedad earlier in his career. (Mike Egerton/PA)

“But I didn’t really care at that time, now when I look back I can understand it was crazy but at that time I didn’t think about it, I don’t think I was aware of everything around me.”

His £30million move to Arsenal last summer was part of a wider transfer strategy as Arteta and technical director Edu set about changing the dynamic of the first-team squad.

“The club did really well,” Odegaard said of a transfer window which saw Arsenal outspend any other team in Europe.

“I think they had a clear plan what they wanted to do and what kind of players and profiles they wanted to bring in and I think everyone they brought in has done a great job, helped the team and improved the team a lot, so credit to them.”

Recruiting younger, hungrier – if less-proven – talent to compliment the players already at Arteta’s disposal has allowed Arsenal to challenge for a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The likes of Saka and Smith Rowe, first-team regulars and England internationals at 20 and 21 respectively, can also benefit from lending an ear to Odegaard.

Martin Odegaard has been a star performer for Arsenal this season

Martin Odegaard has been a star performer for Arsenal this season (John Walton/PA)

“Yes, of course,” he replied when asked if he can use his experiences of Real Madrid to help aid the development of Saka, Smith Rowe and others.

“They don’t need a lot of help but of course I can give them some advice and tips about how I made sure to keep focused on football, have good people in my life.

“I think they’ve been through a lot already but we can talk about different experiences, I can help with that.”

Saka and Odegaard have certainly been helping one another on the pitch lately, with the latter’s opening goal in the recent win over Watford further evidence of their burgeoning understanding.

For Odegaard, it was a fifth goal of the season to go alongside his four assists so far.

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“Football now, it has changed a little bit during the years and I think Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of course are a big part of that with the goals and the assists and everything,” he added.

“Now everyone just judges you on if you score goals or assist but, to me, the most important thing is to help the team to win.

“So if I make the last pass, or score the goal, or make the third-last past it is not the most important thing to me, I want to help the team to win and improve. If I had the third-last pass and we scored then I’m happy.”

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