Odegaard issues firm demand to Arsenal teammates after Premier League lead grows

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Odegaard issues firm demand to Arsenal teammates after Premier League lead grows
Odegaard issues firm demand to Arsenal teammates after Premier League lead grows

After going a magnificent seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, Martin Odegaard led his Arsenal squad over to celebrate with the joyful travelling support. The Gunners captain even took off his shirt and gave it to a lucky fan.

It was reminiscent of another team in black sealing a statement away win in pursuit of a long-awaited title. Jose Mourinho urged his Chelsea players to throw their jerseys into the crowd after a huge win at Blackburn in February 2005.

Like then, Arsenal showed they are genuine title contenders with a crucial away win against tricky opponents. Mikel Arteta’s side have taken a remarkable 43 points from 48 before hosting Newcastle on Tuesday.

But unlike the 'Special One', Mourinho, Arsenal remain the cautious ones over their chances of a first title since 2004 with 22 games still to go. “We don’t focus on that, we focus on every game to improve and get better,” said Odegaard.

“Of course, we are in a good position and we are really happy to be there. It is our job to keep fighting and keep improving and make sure that we can fight all the way.” Reading from the same script, Arteta added: “It’s still a long run to go.”

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But on a day when champions Manchester City and Newcastle dropped points, Arsenal gave a display of potential champions against bogey side Brighton. The Gunners fell away last season to finish fifth last season after six defeats from mid-March. This young side has grown since then even if the squad remains thin.

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Odegaard issues firm demand to Arsenal teammates after Premier League lead growsMartin Odegaard scored a sublime goal to double Arsenal's lead against Brighton (Getty Images)

“Missing the Champions League was a big disappointment for us and we said before the season that we were really hungry to come back stronger and better and I think we have done that and we are in a good way and improved in a lot of areas with the ball, without the ball and in front of goal, in our own box,” Odegaard added. “ A lot of things we have improved.”

The Norwegian has also got better and is up there with Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland as one of the top players in the Premier League. He scored his seventh goal of the season and provided a stunning first-time pass in a flowing counter-attack for Gabriel Martinelli’s 71st-minute strike.

Bukayo Saka had netted after only 68 seconds while Eddie Nketiah guaranteed the front three all scored again by netting after 47 minutes. Yet from 3-0 up, the game changed after both sides made double substitutions on the hour.

Brighton improved when Jeremy Sarmiento and Evan Ferguson came on while Arsenal looked weaker defensively when both full-backs were changed. Kaoru Mitoma scored after 65 minutes, and after Martinelli and then Irish teenager Ferguson found the net, the Japan striker was denied a second goal and the game a grandstand finish by a tight VAR offside call.

“We knew that if they scored another one, it will be even more chaos,” said Odegaard. “It is about staying calm and keep playing football.” Brighton can take consolation from scoring twice against the leaders but not conceding four.

“They are obviously a great team, their top of the league for a reason,” defender Lewis Dunk said of Arsenal. “But it would have been an interesting ending if that third goal had stood. It would have made them panic and get the crowd up.”

Albion boss Roberto De Zerbi claimed the league leaders were as “lucky” as the fan with Odegaard’s shirt. “Arsenal have fantastic players, a fantastic coach,” said the Italian. “I think they are lucky in this moment but to win the Premier League you have to have luck sometimes. They scored goals in crucial moments. But being lucky is not a bad thing.”

Neil McLeman

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