Martin Odegaard insists Arsenal will use the disappointment of losing the Premier League title to Manchester City last season to come back even stronger when the new season begins.
The Gunners led the Premier League title race for 248 days last season before being eventually overtaken by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who went on to win the treble, leaving the north London side without a trophy for a third consecutive season.
However, despite the disappointment of not winning a first title since 2004, Arsenal secured a return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season.
Arsenal captain Odegaard speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News on his team’s pre-season tour of the United States, admitted he still has mixed feelings about last season but insists his side will use the disappointment to try and bring trophies to north London next season.
“There are a lot of mixed feelings [about last season]Odegaard said.
“We are proud to see how far we have come and how much we have improved in the last few years. To be there and fight for the title against the team that has won everything is a good step for us, but at the same time. while it still hurts to be so close to victory.
There is a great energy in the club. There is a good atmosphere and the players, club staff and fans are really connected.
“Our dream was to win and that’s what we want, so it still hurts, but we have to use everything we learned from last year in a good way like we did the year before. We lost the Champions League, but we came back even stronger and even more prepared.
We have to do the same now to come back and use the disappointment in a good way, and that’s what we will try to do.”
“New signings can have an impact on and off the pitch”
The Gunners have spent more than £200million to bring Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber to the Emirates Stadium as Mikel Arteta prepares to make another push for the Premier League title.
Odegaard is excited at the prospect of playing with Arsenal’s young boys, but is also looking forward to seeing what they can add to the squad off the pitch.
“All the signings can bring something big to the club,” he said.
“They are great players and also great characters.
“They are adapting very well to the club already and now it is really important to have a good squad.
“We will play the Champions League, we will be in many tournaments and we will play in many big matches.
“I’m excited to play with the new arrivals. They’re good guys on the field and off the field, and I think they’re going to give us a lot.”
“Unity is what makes Arsenal special”
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard told Sky Sports News:
“Unity is the special thing of this team. We are like a family where everyone works for each other and helps each other.
“The club and Mikel Arteta have done a really great job of building this culture and it’s crucial.
“Today in football you need the team to really be together and fight for each other, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’re so confident in each other because we believe in each other and we work for each other.”
“People can say what they want, but we will stay focused”
Last season’s improvements and this summer’s revenue bring new expectations.
Odegaard admits the pressure will be on to deliver, but insists he and his team-mates will not receive any notice of talks outside the club.
When asked about expectations that Arsenal will push Man City again this season, he replied: “That’s football and that’s how it works.
Everyone will be a little more experienced this year after what we went through last year. We will learn from this and improve.
“There will always be conversations and expectations, but our job is to stay focused on what we can control, which is the performance and what we can do every day in training to make sure we work hard and improve.
“It’s a big group, there are a lot of hungry players and young players.
“That’s the key for us, to keep working hard, keep going and push every day to be better.
“People can say what they want and write what they want, but our job is to stay focused.”
Timber: Expectations are really high at Arsenal
Defender Timber, who joined from Ajax for £38million this month, has told his Arsenal teammates that a lot will be expected of them in the 2023/24 season.
“I said to others, they had a great season and bought some players – so expectations are really high,” the Dutchman said during the Gunners’ tour of the United States.
“It’s really cool to see that they’re building and building, so let’s see what happens.”
Timber, whose family are lifelong Arsenal fans, revealed that the decision to swap Ajax for Arsenal was very quick after several talks with manager Arteta.
“That’s something between the coach and me,” Timber said when asked about the role Arteta played in those conversations.
“But it was a good conversation and we had a few more after that. I decided very quickly to come to Arsenal.
“It’s a dream come true, that’s what it is to be honest. My patience has paid off. I just followed my feelings. It is one of the most beautiful clubs in the world.
“I think they bought me for one reason, it’s to show my skills and add something to this group. Hopefully I can do that this season.”
Nketiah: Hopefully Rice remembers how much I love those passes!
Meanwhile, striker Eddie Nketiah is looking forward to a reunion with former team-mate Declan Rice in Arsenal colours.
The bulk of Arsenal’s summer transfer spending has gone towards securing Rice’s club-record £105million transfer across the capital from West Ham.
Nketiah and Rice played together in Chelsea’s academy from U9 to U14 level – and the pair were even released by the Blues on the same day.
“I’m close to his family and he’s close to me. It helps to have that relationship with him and hopefully he can remember how I like those passes made!” Nketiah said exclusively Sky Sports News.
“It’s good to have him and I’m sure he will be a very good addition and help us this season.”
Nketiah, meanwhile, is unfazed by competition for the striker role, which could include new £65m signing Havertz and the return of Folarin Balogun on loan – and has targeted more game time than his nine starts in the Premier League last season.
“It was a really positive season for me and for the club. It was nice to have that run in the team for such an important, critical stage for us in the title race and the big games,” said the striker.
“It’s what you dream of as a player to play in these types of games, so it was good to contribute and score goals and help the team.
“I’m hungry for more – I want to get more game time to help the team more and really push myself to improve. Hopefully I can have a good season personally and the team can go better.”
Arsenal’s pre-season schedule…
- July 8: Arsenal 1-1 Watford
- July 13: FC Nuremberg 1-1 Arsenal
- July 20: MLS All-Stars vs Arsenal, kick-off 4.30 (Audi Field, USA)
- July 22: Man Utd vs Arsenal, kick-off 22:00 (MetLife Stadium, USA)
- July 26: Barcelona vs Arsenal, kick-off at 22:00 (Sofi Stadium, USA)
- August 2: Arsenal vs Monaco – kick-off 18:00 (Emirates Stadium)
- August 6: Arsenal vs Man City – 4pm kick-off (Wembley) FA Community Shield
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