Analysis – Why Smith-Rowe should be picked ahead of Odegaard

Smith-Rowe is Superior to Odegaard


It has to be said now. Smith-Rowe is a superior playmaking talent to Martin Odeegard. Playmaking to the casual fan is often just about brilliantly timed and weighted passes. But that is not all to playmaking. Martin Odeegard has a very good pass in him, but what else?


Playmaking in modern football requires comfort evading opposition pressure as a fundamental. Evading this pressure can come from having very good dribbling skills or movement. Neither Smith-Rowe or Odegaard are great dribblers but Smith-Rowe moves like water, going in and out and around and behind and ahead. He does not stick to one area of the pitch unlike Odegaard who only likes playing in the right half-space. This means it becomes effectively impossible to man-mark Smith-Rowe out of a game. He will not stay in one position. He will not always follow the ball. He will sometimes fill in for Bellerin at rightback while Bellerin carries the ball forward. He understands positional play and is very comfortable with the ball on every side of the pitch. Smith-Rowe provides momentary overloads where he thinks it is needed and occupies spaces that have been left behind.


Another way of evading pressure is speed of thought and execution. Odegaard is a methodical thinker on the pitch. He delays and dallies and wonders. Against top opposition, this can be bad for the speed of attacks and can give them a chance to settle down and apply pressure. Smith-Rowe is completely different mentally. Before he came in against Chelsea, Arsenal had one of the statistics that showed which team is playing poor positional football: slow movement of the ball up the pitch. In a very tactical world where wingers defend, if you can’t move quickly up the pitch and spring a good attack, it becomes difficult to beat even small teams. A good team at positional football are capable of moving the ball with speed up the pitch when they want to. Guardiola’s City and Sarri’s Napoli are good examples. They are also good at keeping and recycling when they want to. Our attacks were slow because our players were not very good at positional play and were mentally fragile. Smith-Rowe changed all that.


Smith-Rowe does not play about with the ball. He knows what to do before he receives it. He is fluid, quick and intense. Wenger’s Arsenal featured a lot of fluid one-touch passing and movement into space. We went past defensive structures with superb ease. This is why we have looked so much more fluid with Smith-Rowe as our playmaker. He is a Wenger player, capable of combining at any angle and running into space. Have you ever seen Odegaard run into space?


Odegaard is a high volume playmaker. Someone who requires so much of the ball to produce something remarkable. No modern, successful 10 is like that. Not David Silva, not De Bruyne, not Eriksen, not Fernandes, not Mesut Ozil. This is why the Ozil comparisons are baffling. Ozil also had the crazy good passing but he was far more fluid and capable from every area of the pitch than Odeegard. Ozil dropped and helped create overloads in the first and second phase. Ozil moved everywhere on the left and right. He was fantastic with his passing from any angle. He was fast mentally, already knowing what to do everytime he received the ball. He didn’t need twenty million touches of the ball to produce a good play. He moved into space.


That Odegaard has the same languid body and a similar weight of passing does not mean he is the next Ozil. He is not comfortable across the pitch. He is too stiff and static. He requires too much time and too many touches. He does not run into space, always preferring to stay behind the ball. That is not Ozil.


Smith-Rowe is at the moment a more modern playmaker. He does not try fancy things with the ball except in the final third, keeping it simple and fast. That means we do not lose the ball when he has it. He is not a ball hogger and will score more goals from running into space. Physically, he is going to become explosive and more unstoppable in the coming years. If you watch him closely, you see the same long horse strides as Kevin De Bruyne. Odegaard is way off and inferior. If we are going to purchase him, he is best used as an 8 rather than a 10, given his defensive ethics. He is a coaching project and can be improved a lot. Until then, Smith-Rowe should regain his role as our playmaker.

Agboola Israel


  1. Smith-Rowe is ours. Ödegaard is here just for the loan, and I feel Real will price him out of permanent transfer (which is fine).

  2. I think it’s a given that ESR will be picked over Ødegaard, fitness levels allowing, but Ødegaard is an able replacement for when ESR is injured as he is for the upcoming games or when Arteta rotates to give ESR a rest.

  3. Smith-Rowe has shown more quality. If Odegaard had shown more quality I would want him to play regardless if he’s on load from RM or anywhere. Him being on loan is irrelevant

    But ESR deserves to be picked ahead of him

  4. another fine analysis from AI, while I agree with you, I think it’s more beffiting to say both players have different styles which means their performance with differs against different opposition and in different leagues. I also agree ODE style might not be relevant in high pressing league like EPL as he may get dispossessed and loss ball often, however,I think it’s too early to assess the situation, don’t forget ESR has played his game in England all his life, he is used to the team and culture while ODE case is opposite, besides, just like Jon said yesterday, of what use is a talented if he is not reliable, ESR injury is a concern, he hardly stay fit, this is one of the reason his arsenal career is taking longer time to get started despite his huge talents, and am sure this is same reason the club went for ODE loan.
    At this point I think those who blamed the club for bring in ODE to hamper ESR development needs to apologize for such statements. One of the reason we are 10th on the log is injury to key players, our major summer acquisition whom we brought in to make the team better is not reliable because he hardly stay fit while Xhaka whomever we don’t want to see play somehow get himself fit to always be on the pitch, I hope things get better

    1. Slagging off Xhaka doesn’t hold water for a while now. He’s been pretty reliable for the past 10+ games.

    2. I think we all want to see Xhaka play now. While Xhaka has been disastrous over the years, I think it’s only fair to say he has been pretty consistent with good performances this season. Let’s give credit when due. He’s been reliable this season, add to that his fitness is 100%.

  5. Odeggard was brought ESR back up that in itself tells you who is the better one. Arteta tried the good old 2 Wenger playmakers thing to improve our creativity but 1 am with 2 wingers is the way forward.
    ESR playstyle and fragile body will mean he needs to be protected from himself just like martenelli

  6. My only worry is does arteta see this. I have been banging on about ESR from the start of the season. Ofxourse he was injured and then was warming the bench until willian had to self isolate and some others were injured. As soon as he entered the team he had a huge impact.

    Fast forward enter odegard and 2 or 3 games in ESR is now playing RW ? This made 0 sense to me when pepe had just played 2 very good games.

    Obviously I don’t see what happens in training but I really hope arteta starts rotating odegard and ESR appropriately. Odegard will be very good against slightly lesser teams who give him that extra second on the ball. I still rate odegard and beleive actually we should buy him and that he can become a excellent player. But as this article put he needs to learn a bit more movement like ESR

    Is anyone else liking our europa chances? I beleive the team to beat is utd and im hoping Milan do that for us .

  7. Odegaard tends to wait for a perfect pass Ozil, but with more pressing. Whereas Smith-Rowe tends to press harder like Sanchez, to force the opponents to make mistakes

    Smith-Rowe is better in aerial duels, has more chemistry with Saka/ Lacazette and seems to be more physical than Odegaard, so I prefer Smith-Rowe for now

  8. I object though I get the thoughts behind this article, Smith Rowe doesn’t own the spot. As far as I know, whoever is best in form shuld start for us. They’ve both been brilliant, the starting spot doesn’t belong to ESR. If Odegaar earns it then he should get it.
    That’s what competitions are the for.
    Personally I enjoy watching Odegaard more, the way he moves with ball and keeps it while making smart passes. Deny it all you want but Odegaard actually moves and plays like a younger Ozil, and to top it, he runs and is a worker who defends.
    Smith Rowe connects other players to each other but you don’t get chased by Arsene Wenger and Real Madrid at 15 years old only to be told you cannot be as successful as Silva or Ozil.
    Also those players you mentioned are not exactly one touch passers, they became successful because they know when to hold on to the ball, know how to pick the perfect run, know what player’s in the best position to receive it, they all know how to use the ball to create space and when to play a one touch.

    Odegaard is a high volume playmaker. Someone who requires so much of the ball to produce something remarkable. No modern, successful 10 is like that.”

    Really? What does Silva, Ozil,De Bruyne, Fernandes all have in common? It is exactly because they require so much of the ball to produce results. They’re not one touch passers, hell if they wanted to be one touch passers, I doubt they would rack the number of assists they get.

    Matter of fact ESR is the opposite of those players and nothing close to them. I haven’t seen anyone compared ESR to those players because like you said he’s sorta different, he prefers the one touch and falling into pocket spaces while bouncing the ball back to his teammates, somehow like Giroud’s one touch style of play. ESR doesn’t need to hold on to the ball because he plays short, like I said, he prefers falling into little pockets on the pitch, it’s why he gets the ball and releases it quick, he’s a wall for others to bounce on. You don’t become successful at being a wall by holding on to the ball, you become successful at it by bouncing it back to your teammates with one touch, and you can only play one touch with players close to you and within range.
    I haven’t seen ESR hit a long diagonal pass like a Silva, De Bruyne, Ozil would do. He doesn’t attempt all those long passes that picks out players on the other side of the pitch. Watch his game closely, he plays with those closer to him. So comparing both players isn’t really a good thing.
    We could do with both players on the pitch soon as Odegaard settles down. Also you forgot Odegaard’s new here to his teammates.
    Both players can actually play and work together, it’s like having one Ozil and one Rosicky on the pitch same time.
    But whoever starts should be who’s in form.
    I’d love to have Odegaard next season

    1. Eddie, you and I are on the same track. Arsenal are lucky to have both ESR and Martin Odegaard to play for the Club for the remainder of the season. Odegaard may be selected to play with ESR, but more importantly to relieve him to take the pressure off his young developing body.
      What I can’t understand is how Agboola and others can assess Odegaard on so few minutes on the field? No one is saying the Norwegian International is another Ozil. However I am glad that the supporters didn’t assess Dennis Bergkamp after a similar playing time, otherwise they would have wanted him sent back to Inter Milan.
      To say he doesn’t find space is errant nonsense. The problem at Arsenal, when he has played, has been that his team mates are not used to his runs and have failed to pass to him. His running off the ball and finding space was one of the attributes in his successful loan at Real Sociedad, where he starred in wins over Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid (Copa del Rey February 2020). He won La Liga Player of the month for September 2019. In the recent game against Leicester City in his short appearance he contributed to Arsenal’s second and third goals.
      Arsenal are lucky to have both for this season, with hopefully both helping a move up the table and a successful run in the Europa League. What happens next season is a wait and see.

      1. Exactly, while addressing ESR’s strength. He completely froze out nearly all Odegaard’s strength to make it looks like ESR is the better player.
        ESR is our own so I understand him been biased when judging the two players.
        Whoever watched Odegaard play before he came to Arsenal would know Odegaard is exactly the player we need and needed when fans were screaming for creativity. For all the admiration about Aouar and though they’re different players, given the chance to pick just one, I’d pick Odegaard. You dont find such talent easily

      2. Ozziegunner…

        Really great response from you as well as from Eddie!!

        I am also of the opinion that the comparison was unduly biased in favor of ESR. I see both players having different skill sets that can be harnessed to make Arsenal a great attacking force in the future.

        Credit once again to you, Eddie, and Adajim for great counter responses! *smiles*

        Please do stay safe!


  9. It’s obvious that our own shoulf always be picked ahead of a loanee if both are performing to the same level.
    A fit and firing Smith-Rowe should always take first priority.

    I enjoy watching Odegaard and think he is a very talented smooth player, but I don’t think he has overshadowed Smith-Rowe whatsoever so far.

  10. A very stimulating article AI and a very well thought out reply from Eddie.Basically AI, I feel you have accentuated the strengths of ESR and been a bit unfair in your assessment of Odegaard, given the limited time he has had on the pitch.I am a great fan of ESR who has a skill set for the modern game, in that he has great movement off the ball and can find space which is hard to find in the game today.He needs to work on finding more composure in finishing in the final third, but he is an intelligent player who , generally, makes good decisions.Odegaard is very skilled on the ball but unlike Ozil ,he is not a pushover in a tackle and works hard to regain possession.I feel it’s too early to pronounce on Odegaard, but to me, he is a very welcome addition who adds creativity to the side.Let’s review the situation at the end of the season by which time we should have a clearer indication of whether Odegaard is one to pursue on a permanent basis.

  11. When has Odegaard made runs behind? He did so repeatedly in the last few games only to be ignored by his teammates! I don’t buy the excessive hype about ESR.

  12. An interesting and thought provoking article. Like some others on here, Eddie, Grandad, I do rather think Al has slightly dissed the fluid Odegarrd in favour of the fluid and even more exciting ESR. I like them both but see far more likely improvement in ESR at his very young age than I envisage in Odegaard.

    We need both in the club even if they do not play together, but as a realist let me throw a spanner in the works; Kroenke and his non spending this summer. I will be a little surprised, albeit pleasantly, if Odegaard is still here next season.

  13. Great article and good opinion on everybody here ….. But I will prefer a midfielder who can create, assist , run off the and score at the time and the only person that comes to my mind is Buendia of Norwich city… The guy is a baller and he is all rounder like debryune……… I pray Arsenal should work hard to sign the guy by all means….

  14. I love both players but I disagree slightly with your analysis of Ødegaard. He is a player who has played at a very high level for a long time. Against Real Madrid when he played for Real Sociodad he scored. Against Barcelona he created many chances. Has played 25 national league games for norway. He started training with Ronaldo when only 16 so he is quite used world class pace of football. Became man of the match against benifica (first match) & in the bigger picture has a lot more experience than smith rowe has. The way he has adapted to his new team and league is pretty impressive becoming man of the match in his first month of playing for arsenal. Smith rowe knows the team well which makes him play at his best. Ødegaard has only been in the team for a month so we have not seen him at his best at arsenal yet. This guy can play at any level and this Arteta knows very well. I think its to early to compare them as you havent seen what he can do when he is fully adapted to his team.

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs