Why Ødegaard is overrated – REVEALED!

Perhaps best not to check that lower-left corner…

Martin Ødegaard spent much of the past campaign making Gooners gush and drool and cheer, bamboozling defenders with a deft drop of the shoulder, sending his mark one way only to dribble the other, threading a pass to where only his teammate could get to it…this season, he added the goals as well, making him one of Arsenal’s most-potent double-threatss in some time. His 15 goals and eight assists are surely a portent of things to come, are they not? And yet, there’s that lingering, nagging doubt that he’s over-rated, more a latter-day Özil than a in-his-prime Bergkamp.

Yes, according to the graphic you see there, Ødegaard is the worst pure duelist in the Prem, clocking in with the lowest percentage of defensive duels won and the lowest percentage of offensive duels won. Remind me of who’s being bamboozled again—because it doesn’t feel very much like it’s the opposition’s defenders anymore. If you think that Ødegaard is somehow better than Kevin De Bruyne, you have another think coming.

Let’s back to the stat and just what (if anything) it means. If Ødegaard is in fact such a liability when it comes to winning the ball back or carrying it upfield, what’s all the hype about? Could it be that, with such granular details, we might just want to take a pinch—erm, a grain—of salt? After all, the role he plays and the skills he displays go beyond these two stats. When we lose possession in the attacking third, he’s almost always among the first to press. His job, however, is not necessarily to win the wall back (although it’s nice when he does…). His job is more like a shepherd than he is a terrier: harass the dribbler until he either concedes possession or goes in the direction Ødegaard wants him to go, namely, into the teeth of our press. Think of it as a “tackle-assist”. Ødegaard creates a situation in which his teammate makes the tackle. Next season, that teammate is just as likely as not to be Declan Rice, who appears (in case you missed it) in the top-right corner of that graph above.

On the other axis, there’s the insinuation that Ødegaard doesn’t take his defender on. He can’t dribble an opponent. Again, more Özil than Bergkamp? This accusation might stick more like white to rice. Then again, is that such a bad thing? What the three share is an uncanny eye for the killer-pass, putting it where no opponent can anticipate it will go and where only his teammate can get to it. What touches Ødegaard takes with the ball at his feet are not intended at allowing Ødegaard to carry the ball past his opponent; they’re intended to buy time, create space, and get his own mark off-balance as well as the runner’s mark to lose track of the run while ball-watching so that the ball finds the man running into space. Ødegaard is just as a likely to dance and pirouette around the ball without progressing up the pitch as he is to one-time a ball through a thicket of defenders, leaving Martinelli or Saka or Jesus free with only the keeper to beat. At that, he’s almost unparalleled in the Prem.

Last but not least, we can play a quick “one of these players is not like the others”. Rice, Caicedo, and Lavia (aside from all being heavily linked with a move to the Arsenal) are all central or defensive midfielders whose primarily roles are to shield the defense and link defense to attack. Many of the others are also 6s and 8s; few other than Ødegaard plays primarily as a creative midfielder or 10. Ødegaard, a 10, is frequently squaring off against a 6 or an 8; its stands to reason that he might not attempt or succeed at many duels—and why should he? He has a recipe for success and seems to be following it quite well. Adding that missing ingredient—a dash of Rice, if you will—might just make that recipe a bit saucier.

Last but not least, part deux— I hope you don’t mind too much a bamboozling headline and lede. I hope also that I more than make up for it with interesting insights and style. If not, however, let me know. Both barrels.

Well, maybe just the one.

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8 thoughts on “Why Ødegaard is overrated – REVEALED!

  1. nwm

    Apples and oranges, nearly every player on that chart in a 6 or an 8, except Odegaard, where are De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes,

  2. Kelechi

    It should be exciting as hell to see Rice added to that recipe. His ball-winning, dribbling, and penetrating passes will give defenses much more to error about than Xhaka or even Partey could offer. If Ode is a shepherd, Rice is a pit bull!

  3. jw1

    What I tried to locate– unsuccessfully, was the stat showing Martin Odegaard as having recovered the ball in the opponents third– either first or second in the PL last season.

    That’s the chart that’s required for comparing MO’s defensive value.

    (Plus, he presses like a madman.)

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I to thought about tracking that down as an important stat. You keep this up, and I may have to keep you on retainer. It pays nothing, by the way.

    1. Eoin ó Conchobhair

      First time? This is trademark Jon with the misdirect. You should of been here a week or so ago when too many people read the first paragraph and skipped the rest before commenting. Shitshow.

  4. A Simple Truth

    Ode was the one Arteta get that I was completely wrong about, which isn’t to suggest that I felt he had nothing on offer, I was just worried about his ability to handle the physical rigours…a close second would be Ramsdale, albeit that had more to do with his propensity to get relegated and the price paid…Ode will never be a great defensive player, but it’s not due to a lack of effort, which definitely counts for something…on the offensive side of things, he’s not Ozil, passing-wise, but he makes up for it by potting considerably more goals…if he continues to find a way to put his stamp on things, especially against top 6 opponents, he will undoubtedly enter the top 3 midfielder conversation worldwide…not sure how Rice will help, as Ode will likely have to come deeper at times, due to Declan’s average dribbling and passing capabilities, but ultimately he will probably allow him to focus more on those areas of the pitch where he best excels, which certainly shouldn’t be sneezed at…Cheers


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