Odegaard won’t be undroppable anymore if Arsenal sign £20m ‘diamond’ – opinion

As Bukayo Saka swept a loose ball into the back of David de Gea’s net during Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Manchester United on Sunday, the England winger maintained a rather intriguing trend. 

Every single one of Arsenal’s last ten league goals have been scored left-footed. Then again, maybe such a statistic should not come as too much of a surprise. Especially when you consider that Mikel Arteta’s squad contains more lefties than Jeremy Corbyn’s dream cabinet. Saka, Granit Xhaka, William Saliba and Martin Odegaard could be joined by yet another southpaw in 2023 too.

It’s hard to imagine a footballer better suited to Arteta’s Arsenal than Matt O’Riley. Prodigiously hard-working yet blessed with immense natural talent and a left boot sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel; Celtic’s number 33 has been on the Gunners’ radar since he was a baby-faced 16-year-old honing his enviable and wide-ranging skillset down the road at Fulham (The Mirror).

As you might expect, his masterful performances north of the border are not going unnoticed either. O’Riley only joined Celtic in a £1.5 million deal from third-tier MK Dons in January. Since then, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle, Leicester City, Wolfsburg, Lille and, yes, Arsenal have kept a keen eye on the Hounslow-born Denmark U21 international.


ESPN add that Celtic value O’Riley in the £20 million bracket. That sumptuous performance in Saturday’s 4-0 Old Firm thumping of Rangers, O’Riley setting the a rhythmic drumbeat and orchestrating proceedings from his number eight role, will surely have added another couple of million onto his already rapidly-rising price-tag.

“He is not someone who was on the radar of a lot of clubs,” Ross County’s former Watford coach Malky Mackay told the Daily Record before August’s 4-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Ange Postecoglou’s men.

“My remit (at Watford) was to bring through prospects, bring in X-factor loan players and find lower league diamonds. The fact (Celtic) have gone and found O’Riley is a fantastic piece of business. He’s a wonderful young player. To go into that Celtic team as a young squad player, make the impact he’s made…

“It’s a great credit to him.”


Now, as talented as Arsenal’s starting XI is, it would be naïve to ignore the substantial drop off between the first-picks and the back-ups. Arteta’s squad is far better now than it was a couple of windows ago. But there’s still work to do. Upgrades to make. From Takehiro Tomiyasu to Cedric Soares. Thomas Partey to Mo Elneny. Doubts persist, meanwhile, about whether Rob Holding, Eddie Nketiah and Albert Sambi Lokonga are at the required level.

Martin Odegaard, meanwhile, has started every one of Arsenal’s Premier League games since November 2021. If Arteta’s influential skipper goes down with an injury, or finds himself suspended, there’s arguably not a natural replacement in the squad. Emile Smith Rowe prefers to drift in from the left. Fabio Vieira, meanwhile, describes himself more as ‘number ten’ than a number eight.

Perhaps this is the role Arsenal envisage Matt O’Riley taking, then; if half a decade of scouting paves the way for a big-money bid in the New Year. Odegaard, alongside Gabriel Jesus and Aaron Ramsdale, is one of few ‘undroppables’ at Arsenal.

But should O’Riley arrive, even he will be under pressure to keep those standards sky-high. As Manchester City have proven over the years, competition for places can be the driving force behind a team performing at the peak of their powers.

If Arsenal are to take the next step, they too must add quantity to the quality.


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