“Mozart” Odegaard recomposes English football

Arsenal have a new Ozil
“Mozart” Odegaard recomposes English football

By Tobias Nordman

Arsenal are ahead of the competition in the Premier League. After a perfect day of play for the Gunners, the lead over Manchester City is already eight points. Two people are essential for the rise of long-proven Londoners.

There are signs of a huge turning point in English football: despite Kai Havertz’s goal and the crisis brake, Chelsea FC are still wandering in Premier League no-man’s land. Coach Jürgen Klopp is fighting more and more desperately against the crash with his Liverpool FC. And Josep Guardiola is apparently out of ideas to claim Manchester City and their temporarily disenchanted goal magician Erling Haaland in the Championship fight. Only woke giants Manchester United and Saudi game ball Newcastle United are currently in good shape not to let the gap in the title duel widen further.

It had perhaps been decided a little in advance on Sunday evening. League leaders Arsenal beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the London derby and are eight points clear of pursuers City. Although only 18-20 games (depending on the team) have been played, the impression is that the “Gunners” simply do not want and will not stop.

Just like Leicester City didn’t stop once, how they prepared for every heist scenario and eventually became sensational champions in 2016. The headlines probably wouldn’t be as gigantic as they were then , when Arsenal are inducted at the end of the season and for the first time in 19 years, after the golden days with one of the most spectacular teams in the history of English football, stretch the trophy in the sky. But a remarkable resurrection story could certainly be knitted from this title. And with several scenarios. The two most spectacular: coach Mikel Arteta and playmaker Martin Ödegaard. They have already been written off very differently and are admired this season. “Trust the process,” the trainer had insisted time and time again, trust the process. It wasn’t easy, not even for Arteta himself. But the mantra has proven itself and continues to support it.

Arsenal stars were no longer greedy

At the start of last season, his project was on the verge of being cancelled. The start was completely unsuccessful and Arteta was launched with massive criticism. After three matches, Arsenal were bottom, having lost three times, scored zero goals and conceded nine. But the Spaniard, once captain under now-erratic coaching legend Arsene Wenger, found a way out of the slump with perseverance, faith and brave decisions against big names in the squad and led the ‘Gunners’ to the League Europe. Two points were missing and that would have been enough for the Champions League. It was the temporary reward of a long journey of conversion. Shortly before Christmas 2019, the Spaniard took over a team that had more problems than solutions. And players who were past their prime or stuck in colossal form crunches. One of them was Mesut Özil. Lots of money, little performance. It was Arsenal in the winter of 2019/20.

Three years later, the world looks different. Big names like Özil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrik Mkhitaryan and David Luiz have disappeared, some are struggling on the home stretch of their careers. The new heroes are Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus, who had no future at City due to the arrival of Haaland (but is currently injured), and above all Odegaard, the Norwegian who got lost in the wild turbulence of world football and has since been forgotten. Eight years after being knighted at Real Madrid, the former child prodigy now keeps all the promises made about him. Odegaard is the heart and brain of the team, captain, scorer, trainer, key player. A conductor who recomposes the power structure of the league.

“Resurrection of a Mesut Özil at his best”

He made it 2-0 against Tottenham with a well-placed long-range shot. It was his eighth goal of the season, making him the most successful shot-stopper in a perfectly functional mosaic in which he stands out as the brightest stone. And so these anthems came out of the mothballed box of football that had disappeared there after his difficult time at Real Madrid. Odegaard plays as finely as “Mozart”, praised England defensive legend Rio Ferdinand a few days ago. The Norwegian made an assist against Brighton & Hove Albion which was hailed as one of the greatest in league history. From the middle of his own half he struck a ball – which he didn’t even accept but passed straight – 40 yards perfectly into the running of Martinelli, who casually completed that dream attack to make 4:1 (final score 4:2). Ferdinand then raved about the “resurrection of a Mesut Özil in top form”. Do you mean: Ödegaard plays as brilliantly as the 2014 world champion, who was once his role model, in his strongest days, simply world class. Odegaard as the new Mozart. And this at a club that once had football’s greatest Mozart, the great Tomas Rosicky, under contract.

The great movers and shakers of top-flight European football have long seen the facilities for it slumber within him. Almost exactly eight years ago Real Madrid won the race, Manchester United and FC Bayern were also keenly interested. Coach Josep Guardiola was in love with the playmaker – well, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything for the most powerful exponent of football’s superlative – and was keen to have him in Munich and train him to become The best player in the world. The fact that Ödegaard is now, eight years later, dancing on his nose in the Premier League is quite a spectacular punchline. Until then, the Norwegian was crossing deep valleys. But unlike many other child prodigies, he didn’t stick to it and was forgotten from then on. The Norwegian fought his way through the hype at Real, where he was replaced on May 23, 2015 as Cristiano Ronaldo’s youngest ‘royal’, and obstacles from the Dutch Eredivisie to the big stage where he has long been a should protagonist.

And again “trust the process”

He did it at 24. Thanks also to Arteta. He was convinced of Odegaard, although he rarely prevailed in his first year and a half. But the Spaniard was so confident that Arsenal signed the Norwegian on a permanent loan from Madrid after a €35m loan spell. What a story! The playmaker had already left the career sole behind and was already on the rise again. But where the difficult climbing journey would take him after solid stations at Heerenveen and Real Sociedad San Sebastian was unpredictable. “Trust the process” was still Coach Arteta’s mantra. And it worked again. The Norwegian has improved in all areas, he catches more balls, prepares more dangerous moves and also creates them for himself. He’s the mastermind of the thrilling high-speed offense around Saka and Martinelli, who has fond memories of Wenger’s past times awake

The winter 2023 arsenal is somewhat reminiscent of BVB under Klopp in the 2010/11 league season. So many players have taken a giant leap forward. Then goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, this time goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. At this time, the young Nuri Şahin, after his loan to the Netherlands – of all things – this time Ödegaard. There are also two important transfers, that of a striker, then Robert Lewandowski (although he was again clearly overshadowed by Lucas Barrios), and a full-back, then Łukasz Piszczek (although he was recycled by the ‘attacker).

At Arsenal, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko are two key signings, neither of whom Guardiola was needed at City. The black and yellow team was young, greedy, stable. The red and white seems to be too. “Everything we ask for, the players did of their own free will. It’s a great team,” Arteta said after winning the London derby. Nevertheless, in view of the title chances, he put a damper on the euphoria. “Let’s enjoy every moment and keep working” – for victories, for points, for a definitive turning point.

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