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Talking Tactics

Odegaard's movement will test Rice's protective powers

Adrian Clarke 18 Mar 2021
Martin Odegaard, Arsenal, and Declan Rice, West Ham

Adrian Clarke says battle between Arsenal and West Ham midfielders can decide London derby

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 29.

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The head-to-head between Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice promises to be a top-class midfield battle when Arsenal visit West Ham United on Sunday.

Since arriving on loan from Real Madrid in January, Odegaard has been a growing influence in Mikel Arteta's starting XI.

He scored in last weekend's 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur and his clever movement will test Rice's renowned mobility in front of the defence.

The 22-year-old will not have it easy, as in Rice he will be facing one of the competition's outstanding holding midfielders.

Odegaard's work-rate 2020/21
Arsenal Mins played (300+) Km run Km run/90
Eddie Nketiah 319 43.82 12.36
Martin Odegaard 384 52.47 12.30
Dani Ceballos 1121 149.19 11.98
Emile Smith Rowe 935 119.84 11.54
Mohamed Elneny 1075 134.49 11.26

Odegaard looks a great fit for a team coached by the demanding Arteta.

Hardworking and technically excellent, his willingness to press aggressively from a floating No 10 position has impressed in victories over Leicester City and Spurs.

Odegaard will again look to close down West Ham's defenders at pace, with the aim of blocking off passes to Rice and fellow midfielder Tomas Soucek.

Martin Odegaard, Arsenal
Martin Odegaard, Arsenal

The above example from that derby win against Spurs led to a chance for Emile Smith Rowe, and Arsenal will be keen to replicate these kind of turnovers again.

Odegaard was hugely influential during 115 minutes of action across the two-legged UEFA Europa League tie against Olympiacos, registering five shots and six key passes.

Executing a number of penetrative forward passes and getting into shooting range more and more frequently, he is sure to pose a goal threat to West Ham.

Odegaard's goal v Spurs

One of Rice's primary tasks will be to shut off space between the lines, especially in central areas where Odegaard likes to receive passes on the half-turn.

He will also need to look out for his rival's tendency to drift to the right.

When this happens, Odegaard will attempt to draw West Ham's left-sided centre-back out of position.

The Norway captain's left foot has produced a goal in each of his last two appearances.

Rice's midfield consistency
Contribution 2020/21 total 2020/21* 2019/20*
Interceptions 54 =2nd 2nd
Possession won 205 6th 2nd
Tackles won 34 =9th 2nd

* Premier League midfielder rank

West Ham's much-improved form this season has left Rice with slightly less to do defensively.

However, his ball-winning statistics remain among the best for Premier League midfielders.

And Rice will be keen to put those skills to good use once more and stop Odegaard from impacting another London derby.

Also in this series

Part 1: Martinez can frustrate Spurs after proving his worth
Part 2: Fulham must find consistency and balance in attack
Part 3: Brighton duo can inspire vital win over Newcastle

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