Odegaard: Man City defeat made Arsenal better

Leagues

Martin Odegaard said he believes last month’s defeat to Manchester City has made Arsenal a better team as they target Premier League and Europa League glory.

Arsenal were beaten 3-1 at home by City on Feb. 15 as Pep Guardiola’s side moved to the top of the table for the first time since November, albeit having played a game more.

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It was a potentially significant blow to Arsenal but they responded in flawless fashion, winning their next five league matches to restore a five-point lead over City.

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, Arsenal face Sporting Lisbon at Emirates Stadium on Thursday in their Europa League round-of-16 tie aiming to reach the quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons.

When asked about Arsenal’s response to that City defeat, Odegaard told ESPN: “That’s what we’ve done the whole season. They’ll always be people talking about us.

“When we had some injuries there were people talking but we’ve just had the same focus the whole time. It was the same after Man City. I think a lot of things we did in the game we did well and we didn’t do that the last time we played them so we showed we have improved a lot.

“We just came in the next day wanting to bounce back and make sure we got even better. I think that’s the main thing about this team, we’re so hungry to improve every day.”

Odegaard said he thinks Arsenal have the quality to compete on two fronts, particularly after signing Jorginho from Chelsea and Leandro Trossard from Brighton in January for fees totalling £39 million.

“The last transfer window was really great,” the midfielder said. “The additions have really given a lot to the team in terms of different qualities.

“Also off the pitch, Jorginho is an experience guy who has won a lot of things. They all look great and are great additions to the squad. You saw the other day [in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Fulham] that they’re all great players.

“It’s the way this club is. When they came into the team, I think they felt part of the squad and the family from day one. That’s what good about this team, we’re so connected and we make everyone adapt quickly. That’s what we did with the new signings too.”

Odegaard was speaking after winning Premier League Player of the Year at Monday’s London Football Awards.

The accolade marks his remarkable transformation from a player repeatedly loaned out by Real Madrid — including spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad — to Arsenal captain.

“I’m very happy, I feel like I’ve finally settled down in a club,” said the 24-year-old, who initially joined Arsenal on loan in 2021 before making a permanent move worth an initial £30m later that year.

“[I’m] just enjoying my football, enjoying being together with the whole team. I don’t think I expected to be captain. It’s gone very quick, very well. I had a good feeling when I came here, I felt it straight away, even before I came here I had this good feeling about the club. And when I came here I felt at home from the first day.”

Asked whether he spoke to former captains for advice on leading the team, Odegaard revealed a meeting with ex-Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas.

“At the club we have Mikel, who has been captain, Per Mertesacker as well. I met Cesc Fabregas the other day. So I speak to some of them, but the main thing for me is to do it my way.

“I want it to be my way and real and that’s been important for me: to do it how I want to do it. Of course, I seek advice where I can but I want to be myself and to do what I feel like is the right thing at the right times. [I talked with Fabregas about] a little bit of everything really. It was the first time I’d met him so just a normal chat.

“I may not be the most vocal guy or shouting but I’m always looking for the best for the team. On the pitch, I’m really living the game. I think I’m quite good at seeing tactical things on the pitch and I just try to do the best things for the team always.”

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