Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard has opened up on how he is welcoming the new additions into the club.
Arsenal challenged for the Premier League title last season when no one expected them and this season with the addition of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber for a combined fee of more than £200 million, the pressure is certainly on the Gunners.
Speaking in Washington DC where Arsenal are currently camping for their preseason tour of the United States, Odegaard says the pressure is coming from outside and that he is concentrating on helping the new players settle-in quickly.
The captain said: “I think that’s more from the outside though. I felt really confident and excited for the season last year. The preseason that we had last year was amazing. We had some great results and played some great football so I was confident that we were gonna do well. So I think it’s more from the outside.
“Now with the new signings and what we did last year I think the expectations are gonna go up. That’s part of the game and we have to deal with it. All we can do is focus on our jobs and continue to work hard every day and that’s what we’re going to do.”
On helping the new players understand the demands at the club, Odegaard said: “I try to speak to them to see if they need something or if I need to explain something to them on the pitch about how we do things. Just making sure that they feel welcome and to help them understand our game model.
“I think when players come in it can be tricky to understand everything we do so just helping them with small things but I think this team is great at welcoming new players. We’re like a family, we’re really together. I feel like they’re happy and part of the team and the family already.”
Declan Rice arrived at Arsenal from West Ham for a British record transfer fee of £105 million. Having played against Rice on several occasions, Odegaard believes the Englishman has the qualities to help the team in the coming season.
“Every time I played against him I saw the quality. He’s a leader as well so it’s great for me to work together and hopefully we can help each other a lot.
“Every time I played him it was a tough one. We had some tough battles so I’m happy to have him on the team and hopefully we can find a good connection very quickly,” the Norwegian said.
While excitement surrounds the club, Arsenal knows they have a point to prove after leading the Premier League for 248 days last season but ultimately falling short. Odegaard remains undaunted by the pressure, asserting the importance of attacking every game with the same intensity, irrespective of the opponent.
“You have to attack all the games the same way,” he says. “Every time we play we want to win. That’s the same now for pre-season, the League or the Champions League. We want to build a winning culture and there’s a great chance to do that in pre-season. “That’s what we do every day in training. Every game or tournament, everyone wants to win. We’re starting to build that culture. It can’t be only when you play the big teams. It has to be every game. That’s how the PL is. If you have an off day, it’s going to be difficult to beat any team.
“What we have to do is learn from last year, to use the disappointment, the anger and all the bad feelings. We have to use them in a good way. We had a good season and took some massive steps. I don’t think there were too many who believed that we were going to be fighting for the title before the season started. But we were so close.
“It still hurts and it’s still painful for us. It’s important to use it in a good way to come back even stronger and to show we have learned and improved.”
The Norwegian midfielder acknowledged the disappointment from last season but emphasized the importance of using that pain to fuel improvement. He stated, “We had a good season and took some massive steps. I don’t think there were too many who believed that we were going to be fighting for the title before the season started. But we were so close. It still hurts and it’s still painful for us. It’s important to use it in a good way to come back even stronger and to show we have learned and improved.”
Despite the increasing pressure, Odegaard remains focused on the team’s internal goals and disregards external noise.
“I don’t know what other teams are thinking, but expectations are always going to go up when you perform,” he says. “We have to be ready for that and deal with it. That’s a part of football and we all enjoy that extra pressure. Hopefully we can just keep on doing well.”