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Martin Odegaard: ‘Am I Arteta’s favourite? I’m not sure if people are joking…’

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard discusses whether he's a teacher's pet ahead of Amazon's All Or Nothing documentary.

New Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard might have the captain’s armband – but he’s not sure if he’s manager Mikel Arteta’s favourite player.

FourFourTwo went to the Arsenal training ground to speak with the Norwegian midfielder ahead of the release of Amazon’s All Or Nothing: Arsenal documentary, in which Odegaard features heavily as one of the leaders of the side.

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Having signed for the Gunners permanantly in the summer of 2021, the former Real Madrid star found himself leading his side out as skipper, following Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s axing. Despite fans and team-mates suggesting Odegaard is a favourite pupil of Arteta’s, however, the man himself isn’t sure he agrees.

“I don’t see it in that way – I’m not sure if people are joking!” Odegaard laughed, when FFT posed the question. “I think we see football the same way, I understand a lot of the things he wants me to do so it’s a natural thing. We have a good connection though and I try to do the best for the team so you have to ask. 

“In the game, a lot of things happen: the other team can change formation and we have to adapt but that’s a normal thing.”

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Odegaard moved to Real Madrid at the age of 15, tipped as the next big thing in the game: the Football Manager series even asked the starlet’s father for permission to include him on the game. Following a nomadic start to his career where Odegaard was farmed out on loan every season, however, he settled down in north London in January 2021 – first on loan, before Arteta brought him back that summer.

Now, the 23-year-old has reflected that maybe he went on loan too much – and that he finally feels like he can relax and feel at home now that he’s in the Premier League.

“I feel really at home. I moved around a bit too much and it was maybe not the best thing but I learned a lot for it,” he says.

“I went to Madrid very young – but, of course, it’s hard to play there so I had to go elsewhere, I think I changed club three or four times. It was not the best situation for me, I wanted to get stability but I’ve found that here and I’m really happy and feel at home. Even before the loan spell, I always liked Arsenal, the way they played, the way they wanted to do things so it’s always been a club I could see myself playing.

“After the loan spell, I was sure this was the club for me. I learned about the club, about the manager and how he wanted to use me and improve me. The ideas he had for me and the team. It was a good decision.”

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He’s been through a lot already at his tender age – but All Or Nothing certainly didn’t leave out a conversation between Odegaard and Arteta about his role as a leader in this team, either. 

“We didn’t speak too much about [being a leader],” Odegaard admits. It happened more naturally.

“At the beginning, I wasn’t playing as much – towards the end, I played more, I performed better and you could see that I took that ownership. It just developed with time and we didn’t have a conversation. It developed with time over the season.

“I started playing when I was 15 in Norway, I played for the national team at 15. Then I went to Madrid, experienced a lot of things there, good things, hard things and when I went to the Netherlands, that’s where I really grew up as a player, had to take more responsibility. 

“I think everything after that has helped me, I’ve been in different countries with different players and managers: you learn about these different places and try and use that in a good way. I have a lot of experience now.”

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And of course, Arteta used to wear the No.8 shirt in the Gunners midfield. Odegaard says that that’s a help to him, too – and that it was important for the club to just keep going after the fallout between his boss and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which led the Gabonese goal-getter being stripped of the skippership.

“He’s a manager who has done a lot of good things, experienced a lot and he helps a lot,” the Norwegian says. “He knows a lot about our situation, he can understand it and he’s using his career in a good way to help us a lot. 

“[Aubameyang losing the captaincy] wasn’t ideal for the club, the players and for Auba it was sad. It was hard, for the manager as well. But in football you have to move on and keep going. I think we did that in a good way. I don’t think I should go into the situation. What happened should stay between us.”

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