Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Brentford was something of a familiar story.
Vulnerable from set pieces, wilting under pressure of a hostile atmosphere and lacking in senior pros due to injury and illness, the game was akin to something of a greatest hits tour of the Gunners’ traditional traits in defeat.
Most troubling of all though, was the lack of edge in the final third, a problem that has stuck around like a bad smell from the previous campaign.
football.london understands that Martin Odegaard is on the verge of completing a permanent move to North London after a breakthrough in negotiations with Real Madrid on Tuesday night.
The fee for the deal is believed to be around €35million without the inclusion of a buy back clause, and represents a great piece of business for Arsenal.
There are some though who disagree.
Many who subscribe to this point of view point to the fact that the Gunners were interested in James Maddison.
Last season Arsenal had just the 10th best record for goals scored in the Premier League, so surely logic would dictate that a player who scored 10 goals and assisted 11 for Leicester last season is a more appropriate fix to this issue than Odegaard who managed just two goals and two assists in his five-month loan spell at the Emirates.
To do this though is to miss the point of what the Norwegian offers to the side.
Before December last campaign Arsenal had taken the third most touches of any team in the Premier League in their own defensive third and just the 13th most in the attacking third, suggesting there was a problem linking defence to attack.
Odegaard’s arrival helped change this.
The 22-year-old’s progressive passing per 90 stats had him up in the 87th percentile in the Premier League last season, while his progressive carries were up in the 92nd.
With license to operate closer to the opposition goal the Gunners quickly became more of a threat and more goals and points duly followed as they travelled up the table.
While he may not have got the numbers that a player in position probably should last season, the work he does in getting the ball into goal scoring areas is crucial.
The Norwegian has a propensity to play passes that dictate what the recipient has to do with the ball without them necessarily needing to think about it.
His ball to Nicolas Pepe in the build up Alexandre Lacazette‘s equaliser in the 3-3 draw with West Ham stands out as an example of this, as does the ‘pre-assist’ played to Gabriel Martinelli before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s goal against Newcastle in May.
It’s acts like this that make him the perfect Mikel Arteta player given that the Spaniard’s coaching philosophy is geared towards getting the ball into the most efficient positions on the pitch from where his teams can score.
Against Brentford two of Arsenal’s most potent attacking threats in Gabriel Martinelli and Flo Balogun had a combined xG of just 0.28 (0.26 and 0.02 respectively).
With his ability to move the ball forward quickly into dangerous areas there’s no doubting that Odegaard can fix this.
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In an ideal world the Gunners would probably have liked to have gone out and bought both Odegaard and Maddison this summer in order to well and truly address their biggest issue last season – a lack of attacking threat.
As things stand the risk is that if something happens to the Norwegian then Arsenal are back to placing the entirety of their creative burden on the young shoulders of Emile Smith Rowe whose strengths lie more in intricate final third build up play than ball progression from deep.
But with tricky games up against Chelsea and Manchester City coming up in the next couple of weeks the skill set that Odegaard brings guarantees the Gunners can pack far more of an attacking punch.