EPL

Martin Odegaard believes competition for places is healthy for Arsenal

By Sports Desk September 18, 2023

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard welcomes the increased competition within the squad – highlighted by manager Mikel Arteta now choosing to rotate his two goalkeepers – as he believes it will make them stronger.

David Raya, who signed on loan from Brentford and on whom the Gunners have a £27million option to buy, made his debut in the 1-0 victory at Goodison Park, which extended their unbeaten start to five matches.

It means England international Aaron Ramsdale’s position as established number one is likely to be challenged over the coming weeks, but Odegaard said that principle should apply to the whole squad.

That was evident as Leandro Trossard came off the bench for the injured Gabriel Martinelli to score the only goal in the second half, but it is the position of goalkeeper which is set to remain the major talking point.

“I think it showed the depth in the squad now. We have so many quality players, the players on the bench can come on and change the game if we need it,” said the Norway international.

“The competition for places is huge and I think that is a great thing for us and helps a lot.

“You see in training every day the quality we have so everyone has to be on their best every day in training and that’s a good thing and will help us improve as a team as well.”

On Ramsdale’s response to being dropped at Goodison Park, having started England’s friendly victory over Scotland just a few days previously, Odegaard added: “I think he will just keep working hard, like he is always doing.

“He was there supporting us, cheering for us, helping us. He is a great character and he showed a very good response today by backing his team-mates, being there and giving us energy.

“Excellent from him. We have two good goalkeepers there and it’s big competition.

“Two top goalkeepers, different qualities, and both so good on the ball and in the goal as well.

“We are lucky to have two such good goalkeepers and we will see who will play, but both of them are excellent.”

Victory at Goodison Park, where they had not won in their previous five visits, was psychologically important to keep pace with the rest of their top-four rivals and the manner of the performance, having to grind out three points despite not being at their best, was pleasing for the Gunners captain.

“It was a tough one. We knew it was a tough place to come, it’s been a tough place for Arsenal for a long time, but I think we did really well and deserved the win as well so very happy,” he added.

“It’s a tough team and they play a bit different, and we had to deal with a lot of different things.

“But we knew it would be a tough game, but were ready for it and I think we did really well on the pitch to fight and get the goal in the end so credit to the team and happy for the win.”

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    Guardiola said it was “unacceptable” that his side had to play an FA Cup semi-final less than 72 hours after being in action in the Champions League on Wednesday night as they beat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday tea-time.

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    “I thought it was an incredible performance, it exceeded my expectation of what we were able to produce today,” he said.

    “We didn’t deserve to lose 2-0, losing 1-0 and not quite being able to break them down is probably as bad as it should have been for us.

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    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta stood in unison with Manchester City counterpart Pep Guardiola in condemning the fixture schedule.

    Guardiola said it was “unacceptable” that his side had to play an FA Cup semi-final less than 72 hours after being in action in the Champions League on Wednesday night as they beat Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday tea-time.

    The Gunners’ plight was arguably worse as they were also in Europe on Wednesday night but had to travel back from Germany on Thursday following their Champions League exit to Bayern Munich.

    They made light of that quick turnaround as they beat Wolves 2-0 on Saturday to go back to the top of the Premier League before they play again on Tuesday night against Chelsea.

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    It was a good recovery from the Gunners after a horror week where their title hopes were damaged by a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa last week before their Champions League exit in Munich.

    But they could be four points clear of City by the time Guardiola’s side next play as they try to wrestle control of a thrilling title race.

    Arteta added: “It was really good, I really liked the performance, the result, the clean sheet but also the way individually and a team they showed they still have a step forward to make.

    “We realised we want to be involved in big competitions, fighting for the Champions League, fighting for the Premier League, the level it requires, we have to do something special. You have to have that love to compete.”

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