morning people and welcome to another Monday in Lockdown. And it’s affecting people in different ways, that’s for sure. For example, personally I’m not going to download a flight-checker app on my phone to find out which private jet Martin Odergaard is taking to get himself to Luton so he can have his medical at London Colney. I know we’re all struggling right now but that’s just a bit, well, weird. Plus it doesn’t really tell us anything other than the player is joining Arsenal and hopefully something will be announced today.
He won’t have to self isolate for two week’s due to the Elite sport exemption, which means he could be training with his new colleagues by Thursday I reckon, as the club will be playing tomorrow night against Southampton (again) and then there will probably be a rest day on Wednesday for the squad that travelled to the South Coast.
That would mean the player joins his teammates and could be available for our very tough run of fixtures which include in-form United at home, then Wolves away a few days later, then Aston Villa away the weekend after that. It’s an incredibly tough run and one in which if we want the young Norwegian to make an impact, he’s probably going to have to hit the ground running, because Smith-Rowe might not be able to play all of those games given his injury record and so some spreading of creative responsibility will need to happen and that’s why this young player is joining us.
It will be quite a challenge for him though. He speaks perfect English by all accounts and I’ve seen a couple of interviews with him where he has been speaking English, so that won’t be as much of an issue, plus there will be a few Spanish-speakers in the squad who can help him too. So understanding Mikel’s instructions shouldn’t be as much of a problem, but he’ll have to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. If he makes an appearance – even as a sub, for example – against Man United, I’m sure there will be a United player in the team to leave one in on him early to show him what the league is all about. So it will speak to his character to see how quickly he adapts and is ready.
There is also the fact that the rise of Smith-Rowe has set a kind of blueprint for what we will want/expect from him. Close control, ability to beat a man, but more important than that will be his ability to operate between the lines. We need him to replicate what ESR has delivered and that isn’t an easy thing to do. Emile has been at Arsenal for years and so feels at home when he takes to the pitch in an Arsenal shirt. He will have been training with his Arsenal teammates for a long time and so he will understand their movement better. Expecting Odergaard to instantly strike up that connection might be a little too optimistic. Certainly in the first few weeks. But he sounds like he has the talent to adapt quickly and after last season’s good stint at Sociedad I am expecting more of a man than wonderkid to arrival at The Arsenal.
We can have questions about long-term future in the summer, because we need to see that he can do the business for us for the remainder of this season, but let’s have that worry after he’s established whether he can cut it in the Premier League. If he can and we are talking about crossing everything to keep him, it means that he’s had a good season and if he has then I would have hoped that we can also talk about Arsenal having a good season too. We all know that the playmaker position doesn’t solve everything, but by just looking at the role that Smith-Rowe has played in our revival over the Christmas and early 2021 period, says to me that if this loan move works then we’ve ticked off another problem position. For now, anyway.
The terms of the deal look good too. €2million fee plus paying all of his £38k-per-week wages makes it a reasonable amount and not a deal that we look at and wince like the horror show that has been the Willian signing. That deal looks stinkier by the day so in this it at least looks like we’re making sensible moves in the market. Edu and Arteta should be praised for a pragmatism that also should be a short-term signing that makes an impact. Let’s all be honest here – how many of us thought there was a deal to be done out there for a player on loan who would improve us? I didn’t. I thought we’d either have to sign a player like Buendia because Norwich wouldn’t let him go unless they got money, or we’d have to take a punt on a player like a Denis Suarez, which we all know how that turned out. So to get this one sorted is a shrewd move and now I’m just crossing my fingers the player stays fit and is what we think he’s going to be for us.
I don’t think we’ll have long to find out.
Catch you all tomorrow.