Martin Odegaard was always fighting a "lost battle" with comparisons to Lionel Messi but has the characteristics needed to flourish at Arsenal, says Mikel Arteta. 

The Gunners completed a deal to take Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season on Wednesday, handing the attacking midfielder the number 11 shirt that was worn by Mesut Ozil when he joined the club. 

Odegaard was signed by Los Blancos from Stromsgodset as a prodigious teenager and has had loan spells in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen and Vitesse before impressing in a temporary stint with Real Sociedad last term. 

Madrid opted to recall him for the 2020-21 campaign, though the 22-year-old struggled to nail down a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane's team. 

Arteta is excited by Odegaard's qualities but did urge caution, saying comparisons to Barcelona great Messi are unhelpful. 

"I wouldn't even get close to that name you just mentioned [Messi] because it's a lost battle in my opinion. Martin is Martin," Arteta said when previewing Saturday's clash with Manchester United. 

"In the last few seasons he's progressed and developed in the right way. I follow him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad which is my hometown and I know him really well. 

"He's such a talent. He needs the right environment, a little bit of time, but he's got the qualities to be a success for us. He's a specialist to playing in the pockets, to be in the number eight, number 10 positions. 

"He can play on the sides, a really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, the capacity to create chances, to score goals. 

"Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball as well. It's another option to give us more creativity in the final third."

Last season, Odegaard topped Sociedad's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total as he provided six assists from 31 appearances. He also boasted an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

This term he has been afforded just three LaLiga starts by Zidane, albeit Arteta made clear several factors will determine whether a permanent deal will be struck. 

"He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for," he added. 

"Then it would be down to two things – first of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team, and second, what Real Madrid and the player thinks about it because he's owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that. 

"I just wanted to give him a clear picture of who we are as a club, what we are trying to do, what we expect from him, just try to transmit the passion and excitement that we had to bring him in. 

"I wanted to show him the project, how he fits and just try to persuade him that this is the right place for him and try to make things work." 

Arsenal are on a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to improve their previously precarious top-flight standing to ninth. 

They welcome a Manchester United side who saw their own 13-match unbeaten league run surprisingly ended by rock-bottom Sheffield United on Wednesday. 

"It's not a surprise because to beat any team in this league is extremely difficult and it's not taken for granted," Arteta said when asked about that game.  

"Sheffield United are a really good threat and you see that. They've lost games they didn't deserve to lose." 

Arsenal were the last side to beat United in the league before the Blades' unlikely triumph, while they have not lost to the Red Devils since an FA Cup defeat in January 2019. 

Still, Arteta says there is nothing to be gleaned from a decent recent record against United. 

"I think every game is completely different, they have the capacity and the quality to beat any side in the world, we know we’re going to have to be at our best," he said. 

"The games are huge, we need to be better than what we were on Tuesday [a 3-1 win at Southampton] to beat them. 

"They've been in top form. They've been top of the table playing really well. We know they are a real threat. We have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday."

Mikel Arteta has offered no guarantee that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available for Arsenal in Saturday's big clash with Manchester United.

The striker and club captain left the squad just hours ahead of last weekend's FA Cup match at Southampton, because of personal reasons.

Aubameyang specified on Wednesday that his mother had been experiencing "health issues" and stressed he "had to be with her".

He said he was keen to be back on Arsenal duty, but how soon that happens could hinge on a range of issues.

Arsenal manager Arteta did not give a firm answer one way or the other when asked whether Aubameyang had travelled abroad to be with his mother.

If he did head overseas, that could bring quarantining into the equation and mean he may have to wait a while before returning to action.

Looking at the weekend prospects for the Gabon international, Arteta said: "I don't know. I spoke with him yesterday, things are looking better at the moment, but we're going to have to wait and see.

"He's our captain and one of the most important players. We are doing everything we can to have him back as quick as possible but understand he's been through difficult days, that he has to support his family and we are here to support him as well with the time that he needed to get that sorted."

When asked if Aubameyang had left the UK to be with his mother, Arteta said: "He had to support his family and he had to be with them."

Pressed on the possibility of quarantine, he replied: "I don't know about what happened."

Arsenal lost in the cup to Southampton but took swift revenge by winning 3-1 in the Premier League at St Mary's on Tuesday, to continue their recent revival in the competition.

Arteta had dedicated that victory to Aubameyang on behalf of the squad and explained it was important to support the 31-year-old at all times.

"That's what we always talk about and what we expect to do for each other," said the Arsenal boss. "When someone is having difficulties, that we understand for him, protect him, give him our love, because it's what is needed."

Aubameyang scored twice in his last Premier League appearance, the 3-0 win over Newcastle United on January 18, after netting just three in his previous 16 games in the competition.

In the Newcastle game, Aubameyang matched his season's Premier League highs for shots at goal (five) and touches in the opposition box (nine).

Having also scored against Newcastle in the FA Cup third round earlier in January, it suggested his best form may be coming back.

Only once last season did Aubameyang have more goal attempts in a game (seven against Brighton and Hove Albion on June 20), while he only had more touches in Arsenal's rivals' box twice (in December 2019 games against Norwich City and Bournemouth).

Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari are expected back in training with Arsenal in the coming days after short injury lay-offs, Arteta said.

He said Arsenal would "have to see" how Kieran Tierney is, although video that appeared to show the left-back in training this week may suggest he could face United this weekend.

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang thanked fans for their support after explaining he had missed recent matches after his mother took ill.

The forward sat out consecutive trips to Southampton - a 1-0 FA Cup defeat and a 3-1 Premier League win - with what the club described as "personal issues".

Manager Mikel Arteta had admitted he was unsure when the Gabon international would be able to return, with the Gunners now preparing for league games against Manchester United and Wolves over the next six days.

Aubameyang suggested he could be back soon as he confirmed his mother was recovering.

"Thank you so much for all the messages and calls over the last few days," he wrote on social media on Wednesday.

"My mother is going through some health issues and I had to be there for her. She's already much better now and I will be back home tonight. I'm more than grateful to the doctors and nurses helping her get through this.

"And of course, thanks to my Arsenal fam for the love yesterday! I'm more determined than ever to keep our momentum going!

"Thank you all again – I really am beyond blessed to receive this level of support and love from all of you and I can't wait to be back."

Team-mates Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette dedicated goals in Tuesday's win at Southampton to Aubameyang, who has scored five times in 17 league games this season.

The Gunners' win moved them into eighth place in the league, five points behind West Ham in fourth, although many of the surrounding sides in the table have games in hand.

Martin Odegaard's Real Madrid career was being set up to fail right from the start, when he joined the club just over a month after his 16th birthday back in January 2015.

The fact he remains their player six years on is testament to the Norwegian's talent, persistence and level-headed attitude, as his first couple of years at the club seemingly had people willing him to fade into obscurity.

From unnecessary speculation relating to his wages and exaggerated suggestions that his presence threatened the future of Madrid's academy, to murmurings that his arrival upset the harmony of Real Madrid Castilla's squad – life wasn't made easy for him early on.

For the most part he has managed to keep his career on track and has shown why he was so highly rated as a 15-year-old bursting on to the scene at Stromsgodset, impressing in a series of loan spells, but Odegaard now has another challenge in front of him.

He joins Arsenal on loan for the rest of the season in a move that will surely shape the next major step he takes in his career, whether that is kicking on at Real Madrid or moving elsewhere permanently.

While first-team football has been difficult to come by at Madrid this term, it's easy to see why Arsenal made their move for the attacking midfielder.

A REAL GEM

If there are any Arsenal fans questioning why they have moved for a player who has made just three starts for a – let's be frank – unspectacular Madrid side this season, it's worth recalling the amount of talent Zinedine Zidane has struggled to incorporate and subsequently discarded in recent years.

Marcos Llorente, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Theo Hernandez, James Rodriguez – you could potentially even add Isco to that list in the not-too-distant future. All are fine players generally thriving elsewhere, but Zidane was seemingly unconvinced by them.

Injuries haven't helped Odegaard's cause this term, but his form with Real Sociedad on loan last season demonstrated just how impressive he is when given consistent opportunities – and it was revealed in July that he had been suffering with a chronic knee issue for most of 2019-20.

The 22-year-old created 62 chances in LaLiga last term, a tally only beaten by five other players, one of which was predictably Lionel Messi. 

 

That gave him a key pass frequency just under 0.5 every 90 minutes, which again ranked very highly among players with more than 30 chances created – six had better records, though his 6.8 xA (expected assists) rating was third only to Messi and Jesus Navas.

He also offers a great threat from set-pieces, with 27 of his key passes coming from dead-ball situations. This is an area Arsenal have struggled, as their 20 chances created from set plays is the fourth-fewest in the Premier League this term.

Odegaard was a major catalyst for La Real's largely impressive campaign, as they reached the Copa del Rey final – which is still due to be contested later this year – and finished sixth in LaLiga.

Arsenal fans will hope he can have a similar impact in the second half of the 2020-21 season, particularly given their lack of creativity at times this term.

WHERE WILL HE STRENGTHEN ARSENAL?

At La Real, Odegaard was often deployed from the right side of the attack in a 4-3-3, but given he is most comfortable on his left foot, he would routinely cut inside and wreak havoc in the middle.

 

While he spent more time on the right flank, with 38.3 per cent of his touches occurring in the right third of the pitch between the halfway line and the edge of the opposing area, much of his best work was carried out more centrally.

Indeed, 31.1 per cent of his key passes and assists came from the middle third of the pitch just outside the box.

 

Arsenal have been much less active centrally and on the right flank, with just under 12 per cent of their assists and chances created stemming from play in the middle of the attacking half. They aren't much more effective on the right, which will likely not come as a surprise to Gunners fans given the largely underwhelming form of Willian and Nicolas Pepe.

 

Odegaard's display in the September 2019 defeat at Sevilla was something of a microcosm of much of what he was good at last season, with his late assist for Portu seeing him come in off the right and play a disguised pass into the right side of the box for his team-mate to finish. Earlier on, he had taken up possession in a central area and sliced open the Sevilla backline only for Willian Jose to skew wide.

In both situations he showed great poise, a trait he has combined with his wonderful ability on the ball, as demonstrated by the fact he played 19 key passes after ball carries – Messi (30) had the most and was one of only five players to better the Norwegian in this area.

 

THE RISK OF SHORT-TERM LOANS

The addition of Odegaard will add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed 23 goals from 230 attempts (excluding penalties) - slightly below their 25.2 xG - so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season. 

Arsenal players have collectively created 26 Opta-defined "big chances", well adrift of the league-high 43 recorded by Manchester City in 2020-21. While this only includes shots that have been specifically assisted by a pass, it does highlight a creative deficiency.

 

Emile Smith Rowe has impressed of late, contributing three assists in open play, but no individual has created more chances for them in the Premier League than Bukayo Saka, his total of 23 putting him one above Kieran Tierney. It is clear they need greater threat in central areas, and Odegaard should offer that.

But, while he is undoubtedly a fine talent, Arsenal fans should be wary and patient – Odegaard hasn't featured regularly this season so cannot be expected to be sharp, and this move is another instance of upheaval in a fairly short period of time after leaving La Real for a return to Madrid. It would unfair to assume he will find his stride immediately.

Short-term loans in the second half of a season are often risky and Odegaard will likely take a little while to get up to speed. If he adapts quickly, his arrival could be a masterstroke – but if he doesn't it could be a wasted few months for both parties.

Arsenal will hope he's not another Denis Suarez.

Martin Odegaard says "top manager" Mikel Arteta played a "crucial" role in his decision to join Arsenal on loan for the rest of the season. 

Odegaard sealed another temporary exit from Real Madrid on Wednesday and will now showcase his talents in the Premier League for the first time. 

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder revealed Arteta convinced him a switch to north London was the right option at this stage of his career, having featured sparingly for Madrid this term.

"I spoke to him before coming here, of course," Odegaard told Arsenal.com. "That was very important for me and he seems like a top manager and I liked his ideas, the way he sees football and also the way he is.  

"He gave me a great feeling and that was important for me to come here. He was crucial. 

"I think every time you go to a new place, you want to make sure that it feels good and that there is a plan. But I think everything here just seems good.  

"I like the club and I always liked the way that the club wants to play. Everything about the club and now how the manager wants to play, I think it's a club that really suits me well. So I think it's a good match."

Odegaard thrived during his time on loan with Real Sociedad last season, scoring seven times in all competitions and providing six assists.

He created 62 opportunities in the Spanish top flight, more than any of his team-mates, while also recording a passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

Madrid cut short Odegaard's planned two-year loan at La Real, but the playmaker is on the move again after struggling for playing time in Zinedine Zidane's side.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta confirmed the club are close to signing Real Madrid attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard on loan as he reflected on his side's 3-1 victory over Southampton on Tuesday.

Goals from Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette helped the Gunners come from behind and claim all three points at St Mary's, where they lost 1-0 in the FA Cup just three days earlier.

The result moved Arsenal above Southampton and into eighth place in the Premier League table, and Arteta indicated his side's positive start to 2021 could soon be boosted further by Odegaard's arrival.

"I think we are pretty close but it's not finalised as I understand it," Arteta told reporters, when asked about the 22-year-old Norwegian playmaker.

"I haven't spoken to [Arsenal technical director Edu] or the club in the last few hours but we're very positive that we'll finalise the deal."

After a dismal run of one victory in 10 league matches between October and December, Arsenal are unbeaten in their past five Premier League games and have won four of them.

Arteta indicated that the upturn in form has restored belief to his squad, saying: "Football games are always judged by the result and that affects the confidence.

"The moment that we started to win and confidence went up and we started to grow and understand each other better, we got some players back and the spirit started to lift a little bit, things were much better to be fair."

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl lambasted his side's defending after they succumbed to a third defeat in six league games.

Hasenhuttl told BT Sport: "It's always frustrating when you concede goals, but when it is that easy I think it hurts even more.

"The first was a mistake in the build-up, but then still we had the chance to defend it and we didn't do it, and then the second one was similar.

"It's not the way we can defend, we can do it much better and we know this. After being down one at half-time it's difficult to come back. We had chances to do it, but also the final quality was not good enough.

"We know we are a good side when we play a perfect game, but today we were far off this."

Arsenal earned revenge for their FA Cup defeat to Southampton by coming from behind to beat Ralph Hasenhuttl's side 3-1 at St Mary's in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Having suffered a 1-0 loss on the same ground three days earlier, Arsenal looked a different team as they attacked with great panache, but fell behind to a superb Stuart Armstrong strike after three minutes.

Nicolas Pepe, who scored on his previous Premier League start at Everton in December, levelled before Bukayo Saka gave Arsenal the lead with his fifth league goal of the season.

Southampton created several chances to claim a share of the points but found Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno in good form, and Alexandre Lacazette scored in the 72nd minute as Arsenal leapfrogged their hosts into eighth place in the table.

The home side stormed ahead after just three minutes when Armstrong met a James Ward-Prowse corner with a shot on the half-volley that flew past Leno and into the top corner of the net, despite the Arsenal goalkeeper getting a hand to it.

The lead lasted five minutes, as Arsenal pounced on a sloppy Jack Stephens pass and Granit Xhaka played Pepe into the area where he fired a low shot into the far corner of the net from 10 yards out.

Leno made a superb diving save from Che Adams to keep the scores level before Arsenal, six minutes from half-time, went ahead when Lacazette's incisive pass found Saka, who rounded Alex McCarthy and drilled the ball into the gaping net.

Armstrong carved an opening for Theo Walcott early in the second half but Leno was equal to the former Arsenal winger's effort.

Lacazette then finished a sweeping Arsenal attacking move from point-blank range at the other end to seal the victory with his eighth league goal of the season.

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being absent for a prolonged period would be a problem for Arsenal but Mikel Arteta is expecting big things from Gabriel Martinelli.

Arsenal were without Aubameyang for their 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Southampton on Saturday after the Gabon international left the squad to attend to a personal matter.

Arteta was unsure how long the striker would be unavailable for, making him a doubt for the second straight game at St Mary's Stadium – this time a Premier League meeting on Tuesday.

Aubameyang has struggled for form this season, scoring eight goals – three of which have come in his past three appearances – and supplying one assist in 20 outings in all competitions

"Of course, it would be a problem [if he was out long term] because he's our top striker and the one who has scored the most goals," Arteta told a news conference.

"He's our captain and an important player in the team. We have to respect the time. Let's see. I don't have enough information right now to see how things are evolving and hopefully things will go in the right direction."

Martinelli made his first start in three and a half weeks against Saints after overcoming an ankle injury and was replaced just before the hour mark.

Arteta confirmed Martinelli had not suffered a setback and he expected the 19-year-old to really start producing for the team.

"He was fine, it was a tactical decision. He's missed a few training sessions from the last injury, but I expect big things from Gabi," said Arteta.

"He's been really helpful since he joined again after such a long period, so I'm really positive about him."

Arteta was impressed by Southampton's pressing in their FA Cup meeting and expects a similar challenge in their next meeting.

Ralph Hasenhuttl's team have the third-lowest opposition passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA) value in the Premier League this season at 10.9, indicating that only Liverpool (10.1) and Leeds United (8.9) press higher than them.

Furthermore, the average distance from their own goal that Saints' open play sequences start is 42.9 metres, with only Liverpool (44.4m) and Manchester City (45.4m) commencing sequences further up the pitch.

Arsenal, meanwhile, rank joint-11th in PPDA (13.8) and joint-sixth in average start distance (41.8m).

"We know they are one of the most effective teams in that [pressing] like we are," said Arteta.

"It was an intense game and we were expecting that for sure, and we are expecting that on Tuesday because they don't really change.

"They are a really great team, really good manager, they know exactly what they're doing and they've been doing it for years now, and they are good at it so we expect a similar game on Tuesday."

Mikel Arteta was unable to offer any further update on the progress of a deal to sign Martin Odegaard as the Arsenal boss defended the performances of under-fire duo Nicolas Pepe and Willian.  

Media reports suggested the Premier League club could complete the loan signing of midfielder Odegaard on Friday. 

However, the Norway international still remains a Real Madrid player for now at least, while his prospective new club exited the FA Cup on Saturday away at Southampton.  

After the holders bowed out 1-0 following a Gabriel own goal at St Mary's Stadium, Arteta revealed he expects to receive further news about potential signings. 

When quizzed over the situation regarding Odegaard, he replied: "I don't know. Obviously we played today. Since last night I don't have any news.

"Probably I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal."  

The Arsenal boss was also asked if Odegaard coming in could stifle Emile Smith Rowe, who has impressed since being drafted into the first team during the busy festive period.  

"I cannot talk about any player who is not ours," Arteta replied. "We have a clear idea of how we want to develop our players."  

Smith Rowe was not involved against Southampton as Arsenal's FA Cup defence came to a disappointing end on the south coast.  

Willian and Nicolas Pepe were given the chance to impress but neither was able to help the visitors find a way through, leaving Arteta to face questions over their output this season.  

Willian has played 919 minutes in the Premier League this season, providing three assists and creating 12 chances in open play. The Brazilian has yet to score for Arsenal since signing a three-year deal in the previous transfer window, though.  

Pepe, meanwhile, has managed five goals so far in his second year at the club following a big-money move from Lille, a deal that was completed prior to Arteta's return to the north London club.   

However, in just 479 minutes in the league this term, he has not managed to create a single opportunity for a team-mate in open play.

"They tried to give their best, you can see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality," Arteta said of the pair.  

"The intention is there; the willingness is there. This is what we demand of them to do. After that, the decision-making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they had, the hardest thing is the end product.  

"We are going to keep supporting them as much as we can, as a coaching staff and as a club, because that's what it needs. 

"They need to keep working hard and try to improve their performances." 

Arsenal are back at Southampton on Tuesday for a Premier League fixture, followed by a showdown with Manchester United next Saturday. 

Mikel Arteta was unsure when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would return as he reflected on a "really sad" FA Cup elimination for Arsenal.

The Gunners went down to a 1-0 defeat at Southampton on Saturday, their hopes of retaining the trophy ended in the fourth round.

Arsenal played without captain Aubameyang, who had to leave the team in the hours before kick-off for personal reasons.

Amid reports attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard is set to join from Real Madrid, Arteta expressed regret at his side's exit. 

"Really sad to be out of the competition," he said to BT Sport. "Disappointed to be out and the way we conceded.

"We are looking in the market and will see what we can do."

The teams meet again at St Mary's on Tuesday for a Premier League clash and Arteta is unsure whether Aubameyang will be back.

"I don't know, he needs to address that issue and see how it evolves," the Arsenal boss said at his post-match news conference.

"We are here, we will have to support him. He needs to take the time that is needed because that is a priority at the moment."

Gabriel Magalhaes' first-half own goal settled a scrappy contest where Arteta felt Arsenal had improved after the break.

Arteta added: "We had issues in the first half and unforced errors as a result of the high-press they do. 

"In the second half we had two or three big chances but not enough. It was an even game.

"In the first half they won a lot of second balls. In the second half we added more quality. We became more dominant and created chances but it wasn't enough."

Arsenal have conceded four own goals in all competitions this season.

Opta statistics show this is more than any other Premier League side and the most they have conceded in a single season since 2015-16 (five).

Asked if Gabriel had been rusty, Arteta said: "Maybe. He hasn't played enough minutes in the last month or so since he had the Covid. 

"He had to stay at home, he hasn't trained as much as we would like him to. He is a player that has done so well since he has joined us. Credit to Southampton because they make it really hard for you."

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was impressed with the way his team played, though suggested it had not been a perfect display.

"It was a good team performance," he said. "In general our work without the ball was good.

"We had in the first half more punch and more power. In the second half it's normal they have a lift. We must make the second goal. 

"We made one or two chances - Shane Long should have got a penalty. We had early ball wins, but our last decision-making was not always the best." 

Arsenal have now failed to make the fifth round of the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons.

Mikel Arteta hopes Frank Lampard is given time at Chelsea as Premier League managers continue to deal with the challenges posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Chelsea went top of the table with a 3-1 triumph over Leeds United on December 5 but have collected just seven points in their eight games since then. 

The worrying run included a 3-1 defeat away to Arteta's Arsenal on Boxing Day, a result that ended a seven-match streak without a win for the Gunners in the top flight. 

Lampard insisted on Friday he does not pay any attention to speculation over his future at Stamford Bridge and has now received support from the man in charge of a rival club. 

"I've known Frank for a few years as well and I've spent some time with him," Arteta told the media. 

"I would like [Chelsea] to support him and give him a chance. He has huge experience as a player, he is an icon over there. 

"He's done some really good things, but you need time and if there's something we haven't had in this calendar year, it's time to work on anything."

Arteta, who found his own position in the spotlight during Arsenal's struggles earlier in the campaign, feels clubs will benefit in the long run if they show some patience. 

"Fortunately, if [clubs] see what you're trying to do is going to have rewards in the future and they are a little bit patient, most of the time it pays off, if everybody is convinced that we are doing things the right way," the Spaniard said. 

"I speak with a lot of managers and some of them have been in the game for over 30 years, and they said, 'I never experienced something like that'. This is a new game, new rules. There are so many things we cannot control. It's out of our hands in a lot of moments. 

"I listen a lot to that because we tend to put more and more pressure and demand a lot of ourselves. It's a very strange league this season, and you can see that in many teams."

Holders Arsenal continue their FA Cup defence on Saturday when they travel to Southampton.

All four previous meetings between the teams in the competition have ended with Arsenal victorious; they also went on to win the trophy on three occasions, in 1979, 2003 and 2017.

Southampton have won just one of their previous nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions, a 3-2 league victory in December 2018.

Martin Odegaard will not be involved for Real Madrid against Deportivo Alaves amid speculation he could be set to join Arsenal. 

Odegaard excelled out on loan at Real Sociedad in the 2019-20 season but has found first-team opportunities limited under Zinedine Zidane upon his return to the Spanish capital.  

The Norway international has failed to score or assist in his nine appearances this season in all competitions and, having made just five starts, seems keen to seal a move away in January.  

A return to the Basque club – where he managed seven goals and nine assists in 36 appearances – appeared to be on the cards, but Arsenal have now emerged as the clear favourites to sign the midfielder on loan.  

Madrid assistant coach David Bettoni, who is to take charge of Madrid while Zidane isolates after testing positive for coronavirus, was asked about Odegaard's future during his media duties on Friday - and hinted there could be developments in the player's situation soon.

"What happened with Martin is something that I don't know too well," Bettoni said.  

"I'm the assistant coach and there are some things that I don't follow too closely, so I can't give the exact context.  

"He is an important member of the squad and we'll see what happens with him in the coming days."  

Odegaard is not part of Madrid's squad for Saturday's LaLiga trip to Alaves amid speculation he could be confirmed at Arsenal imminently. 

The 22-year-old created 62 chances in LaLiga last term - a tally only beaten by four other players, one of which was predictably Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi.  

His contributions in terms of goals and assists helped La Real finish in sixth place. They also reached the Copa del Rey final, though that fixture against rivals Athletic Bilbao is yet to take place due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The addition of Odegaard would add some welcome creativity to Mikel Arteta's squad, the Gunners having managed just 23 goals in 19 league games so far in what has been a topsy-turvy 2020-21 season.  

Arsenal have created 158 scoring opportunities, of which 33 are considered big chances by Opta, well adrift of the league-high 53 recorded by Manchester City this term. The Gunners have managed 20 goals from 221 attempts (excluding penalties), slightly below their xG figure of 23. 

Emile Smith Rowe has been a revelation of late, contributing three assists in open play, but no individual has created more chances for the Premier League club than full-back Kieran Tierney, his total of 22 putting him one above Bukayo Saka. 

Having been busy so far in January trimming the squad, including the impending departure of Mesut Ozil, Arteta has admitted he hopes to make additions before the transfer window closes. 

"We are in that process right now, we have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase," he told the media on Thursday. 

"Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do."

Mesut Ozil's move to Fenerbahce is being delayed due to the "quarantine situation" in Turkey but Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta does not believe there is anything to be concerned about.

It became clear at the start of the month that Ozil was likely to depart Arsenal in the January transfer window, as links with Fener and Major League Soccer emerged.

Fener quickly became frontrunners, helped by the fact Ozil supported them as a child, and the German midfielder has done little to keep their discussions under wraps.

Ozil effectively confirmed the move on Sunday when speaking on Turkish television station NTV, and he arrived in Istanbul that night.

When the transfer is completed, it will bring to an end a seven-and-a-half-year spell at Arsenal, with Ozil having joined in 2013 from Real Madrid.

And while he lit up the Premier League during his earlier days, Ozil's impact has been limited since Arsene Wenger departed in 2018.

Addressing the delay of confirmation for Ozil's departure, Arteta told reporters on Thursday: "The quarantine situation is making that final step the longest ever.

"They have a lot of restrictions there [in Turkey]. Everything seems to be going OK, but I cannot say definitely what is going to happen. As soon as I can, we will mention."

Arteta's appointment at Arsenal appeared to present Ozil with a second chance to breathe life back into his career at the club, with the Spaniard suggesting he was going to build the team in a way that got the best out of him.

Ozil played 10 Premier League games between Arteta's appointment and the coronavirus pandemic bringing a halt to action in March, but he has not played since.

"He's a great footballer, a really talented player, but at the moment I want to take the team in a different direction," Arteta said. "Maybe he was part of some plans at the start, but he wasn't anymore by the end.

"For many different reasons [it has been difficult] – his history here, how things developed, how I think the team should evolve in the future and his position at the club.

"A player with such importance that is not playing, is not in the squad, is such a difficult situation to sustain for both parties. The player wants to play, we cannot give him the minutes and obviously that situation has to be resolved."

In his prime, Ozil was one of the Premier League's finest attacking midfielders and laid on a remarkable 19 assists in the 2015-16 season.

Although his influence waned since then, he was still Arsenal's most productive player in terms of chances created per 90 minutes (2.4) in the Premier League last season.

But their long association is set to end, with Ozil getting the move to Fener he has longed for.

Thomas Partey has an "aura" about him that helps make Arsenal better, according to manager Mikel Arteta.

Partey provided his first Premier League assist as Arsenal recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over Newcastle United on Monday.

Injuries have limited the midfielder to just eight appearances in all competitions since his arrival for a reported £45million (€50m) from Atletico Madrid in October.

Arteta was delighted with the Ghana international, who had two interceptions and two key passes before being substituted in the 67th minute against Newcastle.

"We've been missing Tommy. He has this freshness, this aura that makes him a special player for us," he told a news conference.

"Hopefully he can keep fit because we can see the difference he makes on the side.

"I think he was growing and getting better as the game was moving and evolving."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brace and Bukayo Saka was also on the scoresheet and Arsenal kept five consecutive clean sheets in all competitions for the first time since February 2009.

Arteta was satisfied with his side's performance as they climbed up to 10th in the Premier League table.

"We always said that winning is the best thing for any collective team, for us as well," he said.

"To get three clean sheets in a row, that we're scoring goals and everything is more fluent. The energy and the cohesion, the spirit around the team is better.

"We have to keep that and there's a lot of things we need to do better and improve but I'm really pleased."

Arsenal are next in action on Saturday, facing either Southampton or Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.

Mikel Arteta believes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can build on his latest goals against Newcastle United after his brace led Arsenal to their 3-0 win on Monday.

Aubameyang scored in a fourth consecutive meeting with Newcastle in all competitions, adding to openers in both Premier League encounters last season and a winner in the FA Cup earlier in January.

The Arsenal captain broke the deadlock as he beat Karl Darlow at his near post shortly after half-time and then completed the scoring from Cedric Soares' cutback.

It was Aubameyang's first Arsenal double since last season's FA Cup final and should give the forward a lift, having failed to score with his prior 10 shots in the league before netting at Emirates Stadium.

"He tried even in the first half; I thought he had two or three really big chances and didn't score," manager Arteta told Sky Sports.

"He scored two today and I think it's going to be really good for his confidence. Obviously it's great for the team because he helped to win the match. Overall, I'm really pleased."

Arsenal were also boosted by Thomas Partey's return to the starting XI for the first time since December's derby defeat at Tottenham.

Partey completed 67 minutes and registered his first assist in English football for Aubameyang's opener.

"I'm really happy," Arteta said. "I think he got better and better as the game went on. He had a big influence. He gives us things that are different to any other player.

"Still, we have to protect him because he's missed a lot of football in the last few months, but I'm really happy with the performance."

The manager reserved special praise for Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, who combined for Arsenal's second.

Smith Rowe forged four chances, more than any other player, and laid on the assist for Saka to sweep in on the hour mark, all but ending Newcastle's interest in the contest.

Smith Rowe, still just 20, has now either scored or assisted in seven of his 10 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions this season.

"When we are winning, they put a smile on my face," Arteta added of the pair. "I know what they are capable of doing.

"They are developing really well and that's merit to them, merit to their team-mates and to everybody that supports them and protects them as well. The performances that they are putting in are extraordinary.

"I think it is [a boost] for everybody, to have that mixture of energy, passion and a little bit of immaturity that, at times, is good, so you don't play as tense like the senior players. I think they've been doing really well."

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