Saturday, March 18, 2023

Martin Odegaard admits Premier League title gain after ‘disappointing’ Europa League elimination

Arsenal have gained a key benefit from their Europa League elimination at the hands of Sporting CP last night. The game was a slog for the Gunners, who lost Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba to injury in the first half which had a significant impact on their flow and the ability to affect the game from the bench.

Mikel Arteta had limited options but looked to be progressing after Granit Xhaka had given Arsenal the lead. Yet an out-of-this-world strike from Pedro Goncalves ultimately proved enough to take the game to the dreaded spot kicks and after Gabriel Martinelli missed, the Gunners watched on helplessly as Sporting CP sent them packing.

Martin Odegaard was one of the changes made in extra time, replacing Fabio Vieira. The club captain came on to rapturous applause and his energy lifted the crowd as he tried to encourage greater noise and response from the home support.

He led the team in the shootout, stepping up first as club captain to set an example and scored confidently. However, despite his best efforts, it wasn’t enough to keep the Gunners in European competition.

Speaking after the game, Odegaard was quizzed on a number of topics from the game. football.london asked, though, about the implications on the Premier League title race.

Now out of Europe, Arsenal have a guaranteed 11 fixtures to play. It could easily be described as 11 finals in order to win the ultimate English footballing prize.

Whilst there is disappointment in defeat, as Odegaard outlines, the benefit is clear. Manchester City are still in both the Champions League and FA Cup and it looks like it gives the Gunners a distinct advantage.

“There are obviously less games, but we wanted to do something special in this competition so it’s disappointing,” Odegaard told football.london . “But also it is straightforward now, we only have the League to focus on.

“We have to make the most of that and make sure we finish well.”

Odegaard is sure to be a key focus in the Gunners’ hope for the title. He has reached double digits for goals this season, with only Martinelli and Bukayo Saka scoring more.

His leadership since being made the club’s captain has been palpable both on and off the field and there’s a real sense of identity that emanates from the 24-year-old. Each time he gets on the ball it feels like something can happen.

With these 11 games and very few midweek fixtures left – in fact, the only one the Gunners have left barring rearrangements is away to Manchester City – Odegaard is almost certain to start the majority, if not all, of the games. An established line-up and consistency in the team might bring the momentum that was established so strongly prior to the World Cup hiatus.

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