The former Gunners defender has been impressed by a playmaking academy graduate this season, but there is now added competition for places
Martin Odegaard is not guaranteed game time at Arsenal and will need to prove to Mikel Arteta that he is better than Emile Smith Rowe in order to fill a playmaking berth for the Gunners, says Nigel Winterburn.
Another creative influence has been added to the ranks at Emirates Stadium.
As Mesut Ozil headed through the exits in north London, bringing a long-running saga surrounding his future to a close, Norway international Odegaard arrived in the opposite direction.
He has been taken on a short-term loan from Real Madrid, with that initial agreement set to take the 22-year-old through to the end of the season.
Odegaard arrives in north London boasting plenty of pedigree, having been a senior star since the age of 15, but the form of Smith Rowe could see his path blocked early on in English football.
Former Arsenal defender Winterburn has told FreeSuperTips of added competition for places: “Emile Smith-Rowe got his opportunity in the starting team by chance. A lot of things were happening at the football club, and suddenly, he was thrown into the team because certain players weren’t available for selection.
“By bringing in Martin Odegaard, Mikel Arteta needs to be careful of how he integrates him with Emile Smith-Rowe. He [Smith-Rowe] has come in and had such a huge impact in a short time, so Arteta won’t want to pull him out of the team. The manager will want a long-term project where Smith-Rowe progresses into becoming a star of the future for Arsenal.
“Odegaard coming in increases competition for places. Smith-Rowe is the starter now. If it’s a competition between him and Odegaard, then Odegaard must prove in training that he’s better than Emile Smith-Rowe. If not, Smith-Rowe will stay in the team.
“It’s an exciting time at Arsenal with three or four young players that could become long-term, successful players at the club. Players like Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli, among others could, over time, become quality Premier League players.”
While getting Odegaard onto their books, and already having Smith Rowe in place, there has been talk of Arsenal rekindling their interest in Lyon star Houssem Aouar over the summer.
Winterburn can appreciate why the rumour mill is ticking over, but admits there is plenty of risk to be found in any big-money deals.
He added: “Martin Odegaard and Houssem Aouar are two players that have been linked with Arsenal for quite a while. Both would be described as creative midfielders, which is a position that Arsenal has lacked for some time.
“For me, I don’t get excited over players too quickly because it comes down to what the player does when he comes to your football club. They may have been successful previously, but if they don’t perform at the level you expect them to perform, people become very upset very quickly.”