Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown admits he’s unsure whether the Gunners should sign Martin Odegaard on a permanent basis because the Norwegian removes Emile Smith Rowe from his favoured no.10 role.
Odegaard, 22, joined the Gunners on loan from Real Madrid in January and Mikel Arteta would jump at the chance to sign the playmaker on a permanent basis.
Arteta opted to sign Odegaard after Mesut Ozil’s departure but it was Emile Smith Rowe that had been benefitting from the German’s absence from the first team, with the academy graduate given a free role behind Arsenal’s attack.
However, Smith Rowe has been pushed out wide since Odegaard’s arrival and Keown believes the 20-year-old’s progression will suffer with the Norwegian taking his favoured role.
‘The reservations i have is that Smith Rowe was playing especially well in that position,’ said Keown.
‘Now perhaps he [Arteta] didn’t think he was getting enough from Pepe defensively so Smith Rowe has now gone into that position. We now have Saka and Smith Rowe playing in wide positions.
‘They have good movement, they tuck inside really nicely, they give that space for the full-backs to go wide and they know when to press but maybe they lose a little bit until Odegaard is ready and up to speed.
‘There was glimpses of really good play but here he is in acres of space- is this a status thing? The club has lost Ozil who was a really good player in this position and he would have demanded it.
‘This player needs to do something similar. Here Bellerin is just not giving him the ball and in that central position if he gets it he can be really creative. It’s decision-making.
‘You want to get him on the ball and that’s why Arteta wants him in there but you’ve got to feed him.’
Keown was speaking after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Benfica in the first leg of the club’s Europa League last-32 tie.
Benfica took the lead from the spot after Smith Rowe was adjudged to have handled in the box.
But Arsenal found an equaliser less than three minutes later when Bukayo Saka volleyed in from close range.
The visitors dominated against their Portuguese opponents, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang guilty of missing three gilt-edged chances.
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