Smith-Rowe is a better playmaker than Odegaard by AI
Playmaking these days has evolved. Once it was all about occupying central advanced zones on the pitch and waiting for the ball to come to you but the likes of Luka Modric have shown that a modern playmaker has to be one capable of influencing play in deeper areas of the pitch. Influence is a subjective part of football. Lionel Messi at 34 is still one of the most influential players ever if his team has got possession but out of it, he mostly walks about, not doing too much to apply pressure or effort.
Football is rapidly evolving a tactical need for ‘complete’ profiles in every spot—defenders who can not just tackle but can pass over long and short distances like Pirlo are welcome (Van Dijk, Hummels, David Luiz); fullbacks who can not just run the entire length of the pitch and play like a winger but also come inside to the middle and play like an interior (Joao Cancelo, Philip Lahm and Zinchenko); midfielders who, whether advanced or not can do literally anything (Luka Modric, Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Partey, Thomas Muller, Gundogan, and all these German midfielders); strikers that can play like a 10 (Firmino, Benzema) and wingers that can occupy like strikers or work as hard as fullbacks depending on the desires of their coach (Sterling, Saka, Mane, Salah).
There is a significant difference in the influence and profiles of either Arsenal’s young playmakers. While Odegaard can definitely work hard off the ball and can play out wide and deeper as an 8, Smith-Rowe simply has a bigger influence on the pitch. His propensity to roam wide or deep anywhere on the pitch seems to be the result of a superior education in a first-tier English academy, training with Mesut Ozil, being in the Redbull setup and half a year successfully spent trying to make things happen for a Championship side facing relegation. Smith-Rowe as a result looks like better fitting for the tactical demands of modern football.
Odegaard, meanwhile, has spent years learning in Norway, uncared for in Madrid, out on loan to small Eredivise sides and finally to Real Sociedad last season. He needs more coaching to develop his game. Fortunately for him, Mikel Arteta is potentially a coach that can unlock other facets of his game. At Real Madrid, unless you are a supertalent who can already contribute significantly to Real Madrid’s insatiable demands, young but incomplete players like Odegaard must develop fast and almost all alone. The way Real Madrid short-circuit the development coaching of their promising young lads is loans. Casemiro, Carvajal, Hakimi, Reguilion, Reyna are some examples.
Smith-Rowe can play his game at any angle, on any side and in any area of the pitch. That’s Modric-esque. The English lad is the very definition of ‘pass and move’, agile, can carry the ball over large distances singlehandedly, occupy space ahead or behind the ball, has great ballstriking technique, works his socks off defensively, and has a great head and goals in him. His skillset is simply more complete than Odeegard’s and his potential to be a top midfielder is undoubted. Clubs who desperately wanted him like RB Leipzig, Tottenham and Monaco would know. We may have one of the most complete advanced midfielders of the next footballing cycle on our hands. Hopefully, he can stay injury-free.