Martin Keown has accused Arsenal players of ‘ignoring’ new signing Martin Odegaard on the pitch during their Europa League draw with Benfica.
The Arsenal legend joined talkSPORT on Friday and revealed he noticed a number of issues with Mikel Arteta’s team in the disappointing result in Rome.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was guilty of several ‘glaring’ misses during the tie, with the young Bukayo Saka bailing out his captain with a vital equaliser to give the Gunners hope of progressing to the last-16.
But the striker’s wastefulness wasn’t the only problem for the Premier League side, according to Keown, who believes Odegaard was being overlooked by his new teammates.
The Norwegian ace has made just four appearances since joining Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid in January, with Arteta easing him into action having barely played in the first-half of the campaign in Spain.
He completed his first 90 minutes for the club against Benfica on Thursday night – being withdrawn in second-half injury time – but Keown says he was barely involved as Gunners players didn’t seem to want to pass to him.
And he has challenged the on-loan star to ‘turn up and start performing’ for his new club, insisting he can make a major impact in the team.
“Odegaard is a player it looks like Arsenal want to wait for,” the Gunners legend told talkSPORT host Jim White.
“Yesterday there were flashes of really good play, really good vision and he’s a real technician.
“But the Arsenal players at times were ignoring him, they weren’t giving him the ball enough. That’s something they maybe want to look at.
“If you’re going to have a spare man in midfield you’ve got to use him, and he’s definitely got the talent to pick people out.
“But we’ll see how he performs. He only played in a handful of games for Real Madrid this season so he needs to get fit.
“Arteta is leaving him on for as long as he can in games so he can get that fitness, but he’s going to have to turn up and start performing, and this weekend is another huge game for Arsenal [against Premier League leaders Man City].”
Keown also admitted he fears for what Odegaard’s arrival will mean for Gunners starlet Emile Smith Rowe.
The 20-year-old midfielder has been one of the north London club’s outstanding performers in recent months following his return from injury, with a record of two goals and six assists in 26 first-team outings.
But he started the game out of position against Benfica, and with Odegaard only at Arsenal until the end of the season, there are concerns from Keown over how the youngster will be affected.
“With Odegaard in that No.10 role, it meant Mikel Arteta moved Smith Rowe out of the midfield position,” said Keown.
“He was playing exceptionally well, but with Odegaard brought in he was pushed out onto the left wing – but the Arsenal players seemed to ignore Odegaard there…“
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