Premier League legend William Gallas has told Genting Casino that Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard reminds him of club icon Dennis Bergkamp. The Norwegian has been sensational for Arsenal since joining the club and former Gunners captain said of the player: “I think you can compare Odegaard to Dennis Bergkamp. He isn’t on Bergkamp’s level yet – Bergkamp was an unbelievable player for Arsenal – but Odegaard reminds me of him. Odegaard can make the difference with his quality. Odegaard is so good on the ball. He has wonderful vision – he rarely loses the ball. Every team would love to have a player like him and if Arsenal can extend his contract, then that is good news for everyone at the club.”
As part of a wide-ranging interview, Gallas also praised the impact of Declan Rice, played down the defensive impact of Mikel Arteta dropping Aaron Ramsdale but questioned the decision and also explained why the Gunners won’t go one further this season and finish as champions.
After Arsenal picked up a win on a road at Goodison Park, what have you made of Arsenal’s performances so far this season?
Arsenal are playing with a new system this season. They are playing with three at the back, with Zinchenko going into midfield. They played like this last year, but this is a slightly different tactic. This gives Arsenal more control and possession in the midfield, but it looks like they are finding it difficult to break teams down and, I haven’t seen the same Arsenal (as last season) yet.
The last few games, to be honest, Arsenal haven’t looked as good as last season. It looks like Arsenal are not strong enough to win the title.
I agree with you. When you look at Arsenal’s performances so far this season and compare them to last year, something is missing.
I think Arsenal are still trying to play fluid football, but the big difference (between now and last season) is that Arsenal’s opponents know exactly what they have to do against them to disrupt their play and that is a problem that they’re going to have to overcome this season.
The opposition are more compact; they are stronger. They know that for 90 minutes Arsenal are going to dominate the ball, so most weeks Arsenal will be playing against teams set up to play on the counter-attack. Arsenal must create more chances. I think Arsenal will be looking to score as many early goals as possible so that teams are then forced to come and attack them.
Sometimes Arsenal can have concentration issues and lose their focus, like they did against Fulham. They also need to kill off teams when they have the chance.
One of the big calls from Arteta against Everton was playing David Raya. Do you think that Raya will keep his place moving forward?
This season Arteta has dropped some of his big players. Gabriel was on the bench for the first few games of the season, so Arteta must have had a conversation with him to explain his reasons for that. At the time, I said I wasn’t worried about Gabriel’s future because Arteta, like Pep Guardiola, likes to rotate his players.
The goalkeeper position is one where managers have traditionally not rotated. Sometimes managers play different goalkeepers in different competitions like the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, but generally, managers always play their best goalkeepers in the biggest games. The goalkeeper position is a specialist role. Goalkeepers are crazy! They want to play every single game – they train on their own – they live in their own world. I’m not sure if it is a good idea for managers to rotate their goalkeepers week-to-week, we’ve never seen it before. Time will tell.
From a defenders point of view, how would changing a goalkeeper affect a teams performance?
The relationship between a team’s centre backs and a goalkeeper is really important. You need to have good communication between the goalkeeper and the defenders. As a defender, you need to understand your goalkeeper; you need to learn their habits: what they are good at, what they are not so good at. How they like the ball to be passed to them. For example, Hugo Lloris always demanded the ball on his left foot, but Petr Cech was more comfortable with either foot.
Does it make things more difficult for defenders when a manager swaps a goalkeeper?
I don’t think it makes a defenders job more difficult when a manager rotates his goalkeepers. These players will know each other really well after spending so many hours on the training ground – they will know everything about each other. Of course, when you put them together in a match for the first time, that is an environment that you can’t replicate on the training pitch, but there was no problem between Raya and Saliba, Gabriel, and Ben White on Sunday. They should all have a telepathic understanding with each other.
Generally speaking, how have you assessed Arsenal’s defensive performances so far?
It looks like Arsenal haven’t improved defensively this season. I was very disappointed with the goal that Arsenal conceded at home to Fulham – that was a mistake we’ve seen Arsenal make year-after-year. When you’re trying to win the league, you can’t drop points at home to Fulham. You have to win that game. The result against Fulham gave me a sense of deja vu. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this Arsenal team has the look of Champions. I don’t think that this is a title-winning side because they haven’t improved on the basics.
How would you assess Declan Rice’s start to his Arsenal career?
When you look at Declan Rice’s performances, it looks like he’s been playing at Arsenal for many years. He didn’t need any time to adapt to a new system or new teammates – he’s doing what he was doing with West Ham. I wasn’t surprised that he has come into Arsenal and hit the ground running. He is a player that has been playing at the top level for the last two seasons and, I couldn’t understand why no other big clubs tried to sign him before he joined Arsenal.
It looks like Arsenal are the perfect club for Declan Rice. At Arsenal he will be able to develop and improve, he’s already won the Community Shield with the club and has experienced lifting another trophy. He offers Arsenal more energy in the middle of the park. He has the quality to make an impact in attack and at the back – he has phenomenal power. I think that Declan Rice, alongside Jude Bellingham, will be the best English midfielder for the next five to six years. These are two world-class players.
There have been a number of reports that Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard is on the verge of signing a new long-term contract at the club. How highly do you rate Odegaard and how important is he to this Arsenal team?
It’s good news that Arsenal are signing Odegaard to a new contract. He is a playmaker, and he is the player in this Arsenal team that is expected to unlock tight matches with his quality. The pass that he produced for Saka to then set-up Trossard in the Everton game was magnificent.
He is such an important player for Arsenal. If you take him out of the team, Arsenal are not the same. I think you can compare Odegaard to Dennis Bergkamp. He isn’t on Bergkamp’s level yet – Bergkamp was an unbelievable player for Arsenal – but Odegaard reminds me of him. Odegaard can make the difference with his quality. Odegaard is so good on the ball. He has wonderful vision – he rarely loses the ball. Every team would love to have a player like him and if Arsenal can extend his contract, then that is good news for everyone at the club.
** Just to add to the above, Arsenal have now confirmed Martin Odegaard has signed a new long term contract which is fantastic news. Our captain said:
Signing a new contract was a really easy decision for me for lots of reasons. Mainly what we are doing right now as a club is special, and I want to be a part of that. I’m really excited for what’s to come here. I’ve found a place where I can be really settled and call my home.
My story is a bit different maybe, as I moved around different clubs since I was 16. At Arsenal, since the first day, I’ve felt great and this is definitely my home now. I just want to say thanks to everyone working at the club and of course, our fantastic supporters. I will continue to give everything to bring success to this club in the years to come.
Catch up in the comments.