Paul Merson says Arsenal player will ‘suffer most’ because of new signing
Paul Merson is not fully convinced about Arsenal’s decision to sign Martin Odegaard, especially because of the ramifications it may have on teammate Emile Smith Rowe.
The Gunners confirmed on Friday that they have signed attacking playmaker Odegaard on a permanent basis from Real Madrid. The 22-year-old is back at the Emirates Stadium after a six-month loan last season.
However, pundit and ex-Arsenal player Merson is negative in his comments about the signing. He suggests that the return of Odegaard to north London is bad news for 21-year-old Arsenal star Smith Rowe.
The duo are both extremely effective playing in a No.10 position behind a striker, but obviously they can’t both play there.
“What sort of message does signing Odegaard send to Emile Smith Rowe?” Merson wrote for the Daily Star.
“I can see why he held out signing a new contract. When Odegaard came on loan he ended up playing out on the wing. But Emile Smith Rowe is a No 10. He’s the future at Arsenal. He came through the ranks and he makes things happen.
“He is the one who is going to suffer most from them buying Odegaard. What really is the difference between them anyway? I think they are too similar. But I know who’s not getting picked if it starts going wrong and it won’t be the £30m new signing…
“I know they both played in the same team last season but it was a problem. Smith Rowe didn’t look comfortable on the wing. It’s like making a centre back play at right back. However hard you try, sooner or later you’re going to get dropped.”
Can Smith Rowe and Odegaard be effective in same team?
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has Odegaard back in his squad, so he must be happy to add another option to his ranks.
Firstly, there were times when Smith Rowe and Odegaard played together in the same team. Merson is correct that Smith Rowe was usually the casualty that was used in a variety of different positions.
If you watch Arsenal, it’s clear they need to find a way to start Smith Rowe. He can operate as an inverted winger cutting inside, or perhaps in a deeper No.8 midfield position where he’s played in his youth.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Arteta sets up with the pair because you don’t want to lose Smith Rowe’s influence.