Once again, here we are. Ladies and gentlemen, the international break.
Mikel Arteta prepares for the next two weeks without a number of players as they embark on their own international adventures. But in the playmaking department, it could’ve been different as Martin Odegaard jets off whilst his summer alternative James Maddison remains with his club.
Reflecting on the last two months, Arsenal were one of the busiest sides in the summer transfer window adding six men into the ranks with Ben White, Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Albert-Sambi-Lokonga and Nuno Tavares all coming through the door.
There were a number of departures too including Hector Bellerin and Willian who terminated his contract to return to his native Brazil.
Other clubs stole the headlines for their dealings and throughout the early stages of the Premier League season have seen some of them praised for their shrewd business.
As it’s widely known, Manchester City splashed £100 million on Jack Grealish, Chelsea broke their club record on talisman Romelu Lukaku, and Cristiano Ronaldo made the sensational return to Old Trafford after over a decade away.
Results aside and the table didn’t lie, Arsenal found themselves rock bottom but a solid September, a North London Derby win, and a Manager of the Month nomination for Mikel Arteta, now they find themselves midtable.
Casting the mind back to months between June and September, James Maddison was one of the main targets with Arteta reportedly battling with opposite number Brendan Rodgers in order to secure his signature.
Maddison shone for Leicester last season as they suffered disappointment once again, with their form in the latter stages costing them a place in the Champions League for the second season in a row.
He improved his numbers on the previous campaign, scoring eight goals in 24 starts and assisting five times in 31 Premier League appearances.
In the end, it was a toss-up between the Englishman and Odegaard with the Gunners opting for the latter as they took up the chance to sign the Norwegian on a permanent deal following shades of quality during his temporary stay.
They opted for the bursting playmaker that is Odegaard rather than the tricky Leicester man. Much of the debacle surrounding the 24-year-old was agreeing to a deal with the Foxes in order to pry one of their prized assets away.
Reports suggested that Maddison was considered as an alternative to the Norwegian originally before their attentions returned to the 22-year-old as Carlo Ancelotti’s side decreased the valuation in him. He eventually signed for the Gunners for a reported £31.5 million.
But for Maddison this season, his below-par performances have coincided with a disjointed Leicester City side who suffered a number of blows across the field. Including Wesley Fofana who is a long-term absentee after fracturing his fibula against Villarreal.
“You’ve got to work your socks off, you’ve got to work even harder. When you did that, that gives you confidence, and when you have that confidence, you have a greater chance of succeeding and playing to the highest level,” Rodgers said when quizzed on Maddison’s form.
“He’s a brilliant talent, he’s played many fantastic games for Leicester, and he will do that. He’s in a little moment where it’s not quite happening for him. He knows as well as anyone. He won’t feel sorry for himself. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to put even more into your game and into your life as a player. If you can do that, it gives you a chance to get back to your level.”
For Maddison this season, there has been a string of underwhelming performances, and his misery compounded on Sunday as the Foxes squandered a two-goal lead at Crystal Palace as Michael Olise and Jeffrey Schlupp salvaged a point with a brilliant second-half comeback.
Brendan Rodgers has been forced to tinker his squad with the problems in his path and as a result, is currently undergoing his toughest spell as Foxes manager.
During the international break, it was over a month since the 24-year-old started a game for Leicester, unfortunately for him, he has been plunged on in the latter stages of fixtures in the hope he can turn the game around.
The last start, coming in a controversial 2-1 defeat to Brighton, saw Maddison hauled off at half-time and replaced by Ademola Lookman.
Midweek, he managed 23 minutes as they tried to overturn a one-goal deficit in difficult conditions against Legia Warsaw, then on Sunday, he played four minutes less in similar circumstances to the Europa League tie as Leicester look to weather the storm from a confident Crystal Palace side.
September saw a turnaround in fortunes for Arsenal beating every opposition in their path. Most impressive of all was the drubbing of rivals Tottenham which rounded off a good month.
Odegaard featured in all of their wins as summer turned autumn but as it was the coming of season’s, Arteta’s side seemingly come of their youthful age with his philosophy now bearing fruit.
As the defensive foundations were set, the attacking quartet of Bukayo Saka, Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were finding their tune.
And they were on song against Spurs and prior to that Burnley as the Norwegian’s picture-perfect free-kick landed the Gunners the three points.
Odegaard will be hoping to enhance his game with performances for his national side as they look to overtake Holland but firstly face the tough task of seeing off the Turks in Istanbul before the visit of Montenegro.
Upon his return, he will be hoping to improve Arsenal’s form in front of goal, which already this season has been far from what’s desired.
The 35-minute salvo against Spurs being the only highlight from a disappointing run of fixtures where the Gunners scored just five goals in three games.
But in the context of the summer’s transfer dealings, so far the decision to pursue Odegaard has paid off slightly as Maddison’s form has dwindled compared to last season.
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Source by Football London