Arsenal’s transfers: why Martin Ødegaard was the best deal since Henry and Bergkamp




From the Arsenal History Society today: When Dennis Law refused to sign for Arsenal, as they sent the wrong man to negotiate

By Tony Attwood

Watching Martin Ødegaard is surely one of the great treats of being an Arsenal season ticket holder at the present time: an utterly sublime footballer who both scores and makes things happen – and from all that we can see, appears to be a jolly nice chap as well.

Better still, he seems to be very happy at Arsenal and is still only 25 years old, which means he could get even better in the next few years – and stay at Arsenal.   And that raises the question, how on earth could Real Madrid have let such a talent go?

In a sense that question is easy to answer: Real Madrid are top of the league in Spain, five points clear of tiny Girona (who we have looked at recently, as the latest club to rise from the depths thanks to money from the City Group of clubs), with Barcelona ten points behind.


1 Real Madrid 24 19 4 1 52 15 37 61
2 Girona 24 17 5 2 52 29 23 56
3 Barcelona 24 15 6 3 50 33 17 51
4 Atlético Madrid 24 15 3 6 45 26 19 48


So yes, one could say he was surplus to Real Madrid requirements, although even when he first came to Arsenal his talents were surely clear for all to see.

Real Madrid had bought Ødegaard in 2015 from Strømsgodset, for somewhere around €3-4 million, rising (as these contracts always do) if certain conditions were then met.  They then evolved a rather strange programme for him in which he seemed to train both with the first team and the reserves, (while playing only for the reserves).

He then went out on the usual number of loans, and came back for the 2020/21 season to play for the first team..   But Ødegaard only got nine games and so said he wanted to move to get continuous playing experience.

So on 27 January 2021, Ødegaard  joined Arsenal on loan until the end of the season and immediately joined the squad, coming on as a sub and making his first start on 14 February, scoring his first Arsenal goal on 11 March.   That goal was away to Olympiacos and got the Arsenal goal of the month vote.

His first premier league goal was against Tottenham  in a 2-1 win and he was voted player of the month.   In the summer he signed permanently for €35 million.

It would be hard, I suspect, to find anyone (even a full-time journalist) who could see this as anything other than a spectacularly successful purchase.

What makes this apparent is the analysis of “open play shot ending sequences” per 90 minutes.  We all love movements that end as shots, and this is indeed what Ødegaard gives us.

If we take that concept of “open play shot ending sequences” being made up of three parts (the build-up, the chance created and the shot) figures from the Athletic article show us that he is this season above everyone else at the club.

The measurement they give us is per 90 minutes, and I have translated their graph here into a table.


Player Build up Chances created Shots
Ødegaard 3.0 2.5 2.1
Saka 2.2 2.1 2.9
G Jesus 1.0 1.9 3.4
Martinelli 2.3 1.6 2.2
Rice 3.6 0.7 1.3
Havertz 2/4 1/3 1.8


Thus Martin Ødegaard benefits by part involved in all aspects of the game.  What’s more he is the first player not just in the Premier League but in any of the top five European leagues to score 50 on the measure of open-play chances created.

But there are more and more top measurements of his game and the Athletic helpful sets out the list “the second most total chances created (61), joint-third most big chances created (12), and fourth for expected assists (6.2).”

Yet there is even more as he is top for passes into the penalty area (66) and through balls (22). 

Putting all this together he is creating more open-play chances, more chances of all types, more big chances and more expected assists, than anyone else, except in the Big Chance category where he is equal top with Pascal Gross of Brighton and Hove Albion.

The Ødegaard figures are astounding


Club Season League FA cup League cup Europe
Games Goals Games Goals Games Goals Games Goals
Arsenal (loan) 2020–21 14 1 6 1
Arsenal 2021–22 36 7 1 0 3 0
2022–23 37 15 1 0 0 0 7[ 0
2023–24 21 4 1 0 2 1 5 2
Total 108 27 3 0 5 1 18 3


Martin Ødegaard  cost Arsenal €35 million.  Surely that must be one of the best deals since the buying of Berkgamp and Henry.

4 Replies to “Arsenal’s transfers: why Martin Ødegaard was the best deal since Henry and Bergkamp”

  1. I’m not really sure what the point of the piece is. If Odegaard is the best deal Arsenal have done but other clubs are doing better deals then so what ? If on the other hand all Arsenal’s deals are better than other clubs then one transfer will be the best but if they are all outstanding again so what ? With clubs feeling the pain of FFP transfer activity is a key area going forward but its actually about how well are you doing compared to the competition, who is getting the most bang for their buck, not comparing transfers within the club.

  2. jod,
    I disagree with your contention, as the title of the article sets out to compare successful transfers within the club. One might contrast Odegaard’s performance with say, Gervinho or Pepe and still come to the same correct conclusion.
    The fact that Henry and Bergkamp are the examples used speaks volumes for the validity of Tony’s approach.
    No dramas 😎

  3. I’m not questioning what the article was about, I’m questioning whether there was any point writing it.

  4. Ah now that is an interesting question Jod. I launched Untold Arsenal in 2008, and since then we have published over 13,000 articles – of course not all written by me, but quite a few. My aim (as expressed in the name of the site) was to cover stories that related to Assenal in some way, but which I felt were not being covered either at all, or in an adequate way elsewhere. Some of the articles are on themes that others have picked up, some not. Some just pick up on details not covered elsehwere, some pull together a full picture not always done elsewhere.
    Obviously many others have written about Odegaard but I was trying to make the point that although Arsenal are rarely able to go after the most expensive of players (Mbappe is an obvious example today) in the way Manchester City, and to some degree Manchester United can do, they can and do get brilliant players at fees they can afford.
    So I thought that was an interesting little piece to write.
    But in doing so I always know that many people who see the title of the latest Untold article will not find it interesting and so move on elsewhere.
    So was there a point writing it? Yes, I found it interesting to go back over the exact details of the player’s history, and his arrival at Arsenal, and note that at the time he was not considered good enough for Real Madrid – although if they watch him now I think they will have a different opinion. And looking at the number of people who have gone onto the page that’s a fairly good number – so given the title made it clear what it was about, it seemed to be of interest to quite a range of people.

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