Odegaard and Smith Rowe are competing for the same spot in Mikel Arteta’s side ahead of the north London derby this weekend. And Keown believes Odegaard is displaying the ‘wrong attitude’ after the on-loan Real Madrid midfielder voiced his fears about making mistakes.
Martin Keown believes Emile Smith Rowe should start ahead of Martin Odegaard for Arsenal’s clash with Tottenham on Sunday.
Odegaard scored the opening goal in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Olympiacos in the Europa League on Thursday evening. Smith Rowe, meanwhile, came on as a late substitute after missing the 1-1 draw with Burnley last Saturday due to injury.
‘When I listen to him it’s what I see on the pitch. He talks about the team a lot, doesn’t really talk about himself.
‘The spotlight has been on him since he was a 16-year-old kid who went to Real Madrid. Maybe he should be a little bit more willing to talk about himself.
‘It’s about him now. This goal should elevate him now. Lift him. Give him the confidence he needs to express himself.
‘He talks about being frightened of making mistakes. That’s the wrong attitude.
You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to play with freedom. Be free in your mind and Wenger used to say, ‘just relax and play, play what’s on’.
‘And I think there’s something there under the bonnet. We saw a glimpse of that with that strike. That is a top drawer effort he’s hit there.
‘But there are other mistakes in the game and just needs confidence. I think he’s been in a difficult situation, it’s an interesting signing.
‘I’m not even sure he’s going to play at the weekend because Smith Rowe is fit.’
Asked if he would play Smith Rowe ahead of Odegaard for the north London derby, Keown said:
‘At the moment Smith Rowe for me because I don’t want to block his pathway and I think he’s been excellent in that role and I think perhaps his defensive compass is better.
‘He knows where to be defensively when they press and he drops back into midfield when they’re allowing the teams out in that secondary position a little bit better [than Odegaard].
‘He plays the ball forwards and he runs and moves, but that’s because he’s probably ahead confidence wise. Still, Odegaard can offer something for Arsenal this season.’
Arsenal’s big challenge and calls for Mikel Arteta backing
Martin Keown has admitted Arsenal will be happy if they qualify for the Europa League, following a turbulent season, and has called for the club to back Mikel Arteta.
The Gunners have seen their fightback since Christmas halted following two consecutive defeats to Wolves and Aston Villa, while they also suffered FA Cup elimination.
That has left the Europa League as Arsenal’s priority this season, with victory in the competition providing an avenue back into the Champions League.
However, there is a long way to go in that competition and Arsenal will still need to compete in the league, where qualification for next season’s Europa League can be achieved.
Pressure will rise on Arsenal and Arteta in the coming weeks, with a crucial run of fixtures that starts with the hosting of Leeds United this afternoon.
That is followed by Europa League matches against Benfica in Rome and Athens, as well as Premier League tests against Manchester City and Leicester City.
A European exit and further Premier League defeats would increase the pressure on Arsenal’s Spanish boss further but Keown has faith in the former midfielder, outlining Europa League qualification as an achievement the club will be happy with.
“This is a chance now to really turn it around. The pressure is on, they finished eighth last season, they’re out of the FA Cup, Europa League is probably their best chance,” he told BBC’s Football Focus.
“So the pressure is building on Arteta, I do feel he is the man for the future and needs to be given time to buy players in the summer but Arsenal are going down the table fast.
“At the moment they have even played a game more than Leeds and are below them in the table right now. If they can finish in the Europa League spots then they will almost be happy with that.”