Two years ago today, Arsenal re-joined Europe’s elite.


Okay, so that’s a wild exaggeration. However, it may turn out in retrospect to be, if anything, an understatement. What am I on about? It was on this day in 2021 that Martin Ødegaard signed for the Arsenal for £29.8m. Since that time, Ødegaard has impressed and even dazzled by turns as he’s taken on the captain’s armband and starts to show signs of filling the massive klompen once worn by Dennis Bergkamp. Hyperbolic comparisons are a dime a dozen, of course, and Ødegaard isn’t Dutch nor is he right-footed, but let’s not quibble. Instead, let’s savour.

Coveted by Pep Guardiola during his stint at Bayern and signed by Real Madrid aged 17, Ødegaard struggled to fight his way into Real’s stacked roster. Loans Heerenveen, Vitesse, Coveted by Pep Guardiola during his stint at Bayern and signed by Real Madrid aged 17, Ødegaard struggled to fight his way into Real’s stacked roster. Loans Heerenveen, Vitesse, and Real Sociedad preceded his loan to Arsenal, a loan that became permanent on 20 August 2021. Considering his growth thus far, and the vast potential that still lies unplumbed, that £29.8m fee starts to feel a bit like a bargain. If he continues to build on his growth to this point, this signing could be era-defining.

I’ve written in the past in typically level-headed fashion about how he’s the best midfielder in the Prem. De Bruyne’s injury and advancing age increase the odds on that post accruing something resembling actual accuracy. Ødegaard just turned 24 back in December and is still growing into his already-outrageous talent. He’s not the kind of player Arsenal have signed in quite some time. Yes, there was Özil and after him Alexis and then Aubameyang, but each of them felt like knock-ons. Real Madrid has signed Özil, Barca had signed Luis Suarez, and Aubameyang was on the outs at Dortmund. By contrast, Ødegaard was a plum player whom many clubs would have coveted. The fact that he chose to stay here after his first loan during—let’s face facts—an abysmal season in which we finished 8th for a second consecutive season and crashed out of all other competitions speaks volumes to how much he believes in that much-vauntd process we’re all asked to trust.

He’s the kind of player we’ve missed out on, the kind of player who passed on the Arsenal to join a more-exciting project. Let the names wash over you. Touré. Alonso. Ibrahimovic. Hazard. Higuain. Ronaldo. Kante. Suarez. These are just a few that come to mind when I think about the rumours (of admittedly varying degrees of validity) when I think of the players we might have signed, each of them young, up-and-coming players of vast talent who ultimately opted for bigger clubs, or at least clubs with bigger bank balances.

For Ødegaard to choose this club over the various others that could have offered him (a) a higher weekly wage, (b) smoother paths to silverware, and (c) a chance to play alongside already-elite players is hard to fathom. It suggests that there’s something in what Arteta is selling, be it snake oil or something more sincere, that appealed to Ødegaard. Whatever it is, I hope it’s enough to convince the Norwegian to renew his contract, which comes up in June 2025. The squad’s progress is a huge boost to that, as are the contract renewals for Ramsdale, Martinelli, Saliba, and Saka.

Negotiations on that renewal are already at an advanced stage, depending on how much you trust Fabrizio Romano. For as vital as signing Ødegaard has been, convincing him to renew is just as vital, if not more so. For him to do so would confirm that we are in fact back among Europe’s elite. The chasm to the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man City, or Bayern may still yawn (that works as both personification and metaphor if you think about it…), but it’s starting to feel like we’re starting to close it.

Maybe. Just…maybe.

Average rating 4.8 / 5. Vote count: 18

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

8 thoughts on “Two years ago today, Arsenal re-joined Europe’s elite.

  1. Mike VW

    100%. Signing him was a massive coup, re-signing him will be even more massive, it will show how serious this project is. I love that this club is growing at all levels, from Edu to Arteta to the players themselves. That’s what Odegaard signed on for and what he believes in. The bonds that these players are forming are becoming unbreakable!

  2. jw1

    Not so sure of the equivalency, of rejoining the elite 2 years back– but MÖ was the first step in that direction. His deciding this, The Arsenal, was the place for him to begin his rise to elite-player status– well, that was special.

    I admire Martin as a person as well. Mature beyond his years– I could go on, but this piece in The Athletic, is a much better telling of his background–


    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I couldn’t seem to get past the captcha (could be a security setting on my work-issued laptop). I’ll have to see if I can get to it. I’m pretty good at getting around a paywall.

      Did you mean to type MÖ (Özil)? Our current man Martin is MØ. It’d be intriguing to debate whether the signing of Özil represented a true turning point or was more of a flash in the pan, so to speak. I’d still point to the signing of Ødegaard as a the turning point, the new dawn, etc. In addition to his qualities as a player and the maturity you cite, he’s a natural leader, something that neither Özil, Alexis, or Aubameyang were, for all of their other qualities. Ødegaard has the ability to make everyone around him better through his skill and his comportment.

  3. A Simple Truth

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that Ode has thus far overachieved, but to make comparisons to Bergkamp at this jucture is beyond rich…furthermore, to suggest that he’s better than DeBruyne is some “homer” nonsense, in light of their respective performances when it counts most…finally, to actually perpetuate the notion that Ode was highly sought-after but ultimately chose us, is straight up tin foil hat bonkers, unless you honestly believe that the creme de las creme couldn’t pony up more than the 30+ we ultimately paid…can’t we just have frank and honest discussions about our club without all sugar-coated/cherry-picked narratives

    in that vein, Ode has been MA’s best purchase, from a bang for your buck perspective…he’s likewise provided us with some rather deft footballing moments, albeit he has left us wanting against some of the better sides…with the proper tutelage and tactics, he could become a key cog on a squad with higher aspirations and as such it would be prudent for us to lock him up for the foreseeable future…he might not be full-blown captain material, but he does lead by example, which is nothing to sneeze at…with this in mind, he’s the kind of role model that’s incredibly refreshing considering the diva-rife era we currently live in…I wish him nothing but the best and I can only hope he continues to grow as a player by working on those aspects of his game that still require attention…onwards and upwards

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I’ll freely admit that comparing him to Bergkamp or De Bruyne at this juncture is breathless at its best (worst?). Having said that, each match makes it harder to deny that he has the potential to become something truly special, even if not on the generational level of either of those players. At a similar age, Bergkamp had already proven his quality for club and country. Odegaard is still finding his way.

      I would quibble with the idea that he’s overachieved. If anything, he’s shown flashes and perhaps even stretches that he’s capable of quite a bit more. As he and those around him mature have to admit to being excited at the possibilities he presents.

  4. A Simple Truth

    my overachievement comment was directly related to what one could have logically expected in light of his rather mixed loan stay and his market value at the time of his acquistion…anyone suggesting otherwise has either a bad case of selective memory or has a general disdain for the truth…nothing I said suggests whatsoever that he can’t become a Bergkamp-like figure at the club and/or exceed the career heights of DeBruyne, but he’s not even in the same stratosphere as either as of yet…far too often nowadays we throw around overly flattering terms when it comes to all manner of athletes, which has a nasty way of skewing one’s perspective and totally devaluing the once-hallowed terms in question…as such, it might be wise to slow your roll a tad…Cheers


Leave a Reply