The performance in the second half of the season, while still not at the level of consistency aimed at, was a considerable improvement over the first months of the campaign.
Progress to the Europa League quarter-finals saw Arsenal meet their minimum expectations in the competition, with a route to the final mapped out with the Gunners having to face either Dinamo Zagreb or Villarreal, if they see Slavia Prague in the next one. . round.
Key to improving performance was the work carried out during the January transfer window where, despite the emphasis on offloading top earners, crucial activity was completed with the signing of Martin Odegaard on loan from Madrid. Madrid.
Odegaard, having taken a little time to adjust to the rigors of Premier League football and Arteta’s style, has proven his worth – the Norwegian having scored in the first leg of the Europa League victory over Olympiacos and in the Premier League against Tottenham.
His role, however, led Emile Smith Rowe to be moved to the left side of Arsenal’s forward midfield trio – somewhere the Hale End graduate didn’t quite deliver the same impact he did. done in the middle. Still, the performance is promising.
As the twilight period of the season approaches, questions have inevitably been asked of Odegaard regarding his future and whether a permanent move to north London is being considered.
Asked this week by VG on the situation, the Norway international replied: “I have not thought about what will happen this summer. My deal with Arsenal is until the end of the season. We’ll see what happens this summer. I have already said things that I always support: stability and development are key words. ”
Stability and development is something Arsenal have offered so far and there is a good chance that Arteta will be able to make a permanent deal for Odegaard or for him to come back for another season just like Dani. Ceballos.
However, there is more pressing work for Arteta and Edu in the market and a player in Odegaard’s position shouldn’t be at the top of the list when it comes to what needs to be done.
Defensively there are still issues and the likely exit of David Luiz will see the Gunners lose an experienced and respected member of the squad, while Hector Bellerin is also set to leave.
On top of that, there are questions in the third striker with Eddie Nketiah and Alexandre Lacazette set to enter the last 12 months of their contract – meaning another striker will likely be needed to join the club.
If Odegaard can be secured on top of those necessary transfers, it would be a big success for Arsenal. However, if a deal cannot be struck, the Gunners may very well face Smith Rowe ready to shine down center again.
Fans have high expectations that the 20-year-old will receive the number 10 jersey left vacant by Mesut Ozil’s departure in January, giving the local hero a boost that was previously shown to Bukayo Saka when he was received jersey number seven last summer.
Smith Rowe, since coming into the Premier League spotlight in Boxing Day’s win over Chelsea, has shown he is more than capable of carrying the mantle and the responsibility – but there are also dangers.
Arsenal have seen Saka play an incredible amount of football this season and he is unlikely to get a significant break at the end of the season with the start of the European Championships.
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The risk of burnout and long-term injury issues are obvious, but Arsenal have had to rely on Saka this season as others like Willian and Nicolas Pepe have not stepped up.
Similar issues can arise with Smith Rowe if Odegaard does not return to the club, with options under the talented youngster drastically zero – although that may be something Arteta is looking to change this summer if he signs a striker who is also able to play a supporting role. behind Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the middle.
Smith Rowe’s advantage is considerable, however, as entering the market to sign a replacement for Odegaard would entail extremely high transfer costs – something Arsenal might not be able to afford, especially with the other activities of the market that must be completed.