‘Worried’ Martin Keown tells Mikel Arteta to drop ‘lost’ Arsenal star Martin Odegaard

Martin Keown before the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Portsmouth FC and Arsenal FC at Fratton Park on March 02, 2020 in Portsmouth, England.
Keown thinks Odegaard shouldn’t be starting for Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Martin Keown admitted he was ‘worried’ by Martin Odegaard’s performance in the Premier League defeat to Manchester City and feels he is ‘not ready’ to be commanding a starting berth at Arsenal.

Odegaard arrived on loan from Real Madrid in January but he has failed to register a goal or assist in any of his eight appearances in an Arsenal shirt.

Keown, the former Gunners defender, felt he looked ‘lost’ in Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to City in the Premier League and admitted he doesn’t feel he belongs in Mikel Arteta’s strongest XI.

Arteta opted to play Odegaard in the hole behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for their dramatic Europa League win over Benfica on Thursday night, with Emile Smith Rowe pushed out onto the left-hand side.

Ultimately, the Gunners got the job done in a 3-2 win, with goals from Aubameyang and Kieran Tierney sending them into the last-16 after falling 2-1 down to strikes from Diogo Goncalves and Rafa Silva.

But Keown thinks Smith Rowe is the one who should be playing in the No. 10 role and Odegaard shouldn’t be in the team.

Asked before the match if this was Arsenal’s best starting XI in the absence of Thomas Partey, he replied: ‘It pretty well is.’I would personally do something different.

Arsenal's Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (L) fights for the ball with Benfica's German midfielder Julian Weigl (R) during the UEFA Europa League 32 Second Leg football match between Arsenal and Benfica at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens, on February 25, 2021.
Odegaard started against Benfica (Picture: AFP via Getty)

‘I would put Aubameyang back to the left and play Lacazette down the middle and put Smith-Rowe in that central position.

‘I thought he was really strong there, what he creates and what he does defensively. That’s probably the only change I’d make. Partey coming in.

‘But the manager has seen what he’s seen. Odegaard, for me… I wouldn’t [start him].

‘I think he’s almost another project, which we haven’t got time for now.

‘There’s no time to lose. You have to win games of football and he’s not ready yet, he’s demonstrated that.

‘I think there’s a player there, somewhere, underneath all of that. He’s got flashes of real quality.

‘But Smith-Rowe now is ready to burst into that position. So I’d simply put him back in that position.’

He added: ‘The question of Odegaard and Smith Rowe. As long as Smith Rowe is in that team for me… I don’t think he deserved to be left out against City.

Arsenal's English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (R) controls the ball during the UEFA Europa League 32 Second Leg football match between Arsenal and Benfica at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens, on February 25, 2021.
Smith Rowe started on the left against Benfica (Picture: AFP via Getty)

‘I thought Odegaard got lost a bit in that game so that worries me going forward.

‘So yes, I think he can be creative in that position. But this man [Smith Rowe] has been a revelation since he got into the team.

‘I like to be protective to young players, having come through the system myself. Defensively he gives them so much more.

‘Perhaps the manager doesn’t want Pepe in a wide position because he doesn’t think he can defend as well as this young man. In this central role, he’s very clever.’

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