Martin Keown has opened up on his ‘reservations’ about Arsenal loanee Martin Odegaard and believes the midfielder is still short of match sharpness.
Odegaard signed for the north London side on loan during the January transfer window after a frustrating campaign at Real Madrid, the 22-year-old having struggled for opportunities after returning from an impressive loan spell at Real Sociedad last season.
The Norway international has been introduced into the side in recent weeks and made his first Premier League start in the 4-2 win over Leeds last weekend, impressing in an advanced central role behind lone forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Keown admits Odegaard is the style of player Arsenal will want to ‘try and build around’ but believes the midfielder is still ‘short of fitness’ following a first half of the season spent on the periphery at Real Madrid.
A lot of the problems for the Arsenal team is finding that spare player,” Keown told BT Sport. ‘It’s been Smith Rowe in the recent run. Odegaard has been given the luxury of playing in there.
“We’re still waiting to see, I think there’s a player under there but he’s not played much football for Real Madrid, maybe seven or eight games this season, maybe a bit short of fitness.
“But if you don’t give him the ball you can’t see what he’s capable of, but there were moments when he had the ball, good passes.
“He does really well for the goal, he’s a player they want to try and build around.”
Keown admits he does hold reservations about Odegaard’s introduction into a central role, however, questioning the decision to move Emile Smith Rowe into a wide position with the academy graduate having played a key role in the Gunners’ recent upturn in form.
“The reservations I have is Smith Rowe was playing especially well in that position,’ Keown continued.
“Now, perhaps he [Arteta] didn’t feel he was getting enough from [Nicolas] Pepe defensively so Smith Rowe’s gone into that position.
“Now you’ve got Saka and Smith Rowe in wide positions. They have really good movement, tuck inside nicely, they give that space for the full backs to get wide and they know when to press.
“But maybe they lose a little bit, for the time being, until Odegaard is ready to match speed. There were glimpses of really good play.”