Martin Ødegaard: ‘It’s good to get some rest but I would prefer to be at the Euros’

Estimated read time 5 min read

After a heartbreaking climax to the Premier League season, the last thing Martin Ødegaard wanted was to be sitting at home watching most of Europe’s best players battle it out in Germany. But that is exactly the position the Arsenal captain found himself in after Norway’s failure to qualify for Euro 2024, their chances having been ended by Scotland last year.

“I wanted to be in the Euros and I’m pretty disappointed that we didn’t qualify,” he says. “The amount of games we play, the intensity in the games and how tough it is to play football at the biggest stage, it is really demanding so it is a good thing to get some rest. But I would prefer to be there.”

The 25-year-old tried to get over the disappointment of Arsenal missing out on a first Premier League title for 20 years by spending a few days in Ibiza with his close friend Kai Havertz and their partners at the end of May, with pictures posted on Instagram showing him and the Germany forward swimming and playing poker together. While Havertz has been able to channel his energy into the Euros, Ødegaard has had plenty of time to mull things over after linking up with Arsenal’s training camp in Marbella last week. He addressed the crowd at the end of Arsenal’s final-day victory over Everton and remembers it as a painful experience.

“Just after the game, it was a bit flat, a bit empty,” he says. “We had the big dream and we were so close. I really had the feeling something special would happen and so did a lot of people. After the game it was just disappointment when you are so close and you can see it there, the trophy was there.

“At the same time it is important to think about all the good things: the history we made, all the moments. I am so proud to be a part of this and be a captain and everything we do as a club, a team. We are so connected. It was emotional to speak but it was a nice experience to share it with the fans.”

Ødegaard admits it has taken him some time to come to terms with the disappointment and relax. “It’s hard, especially in the beginning. It takes some time to really switch off. That’s important though, to disconnect from the football world and not think too much. But you think more about it to start with and then you can leave it a little bit more with time. It’s always on your mind and I try my best to switch off. After a week or two I started to work again. It’s always there in the back of the head.”

Martin Ødegaard and Kai Havertz playing for ArsenalView image in fullscreen

Arsenal broke several club records, including racking up 28 Premier League victories and their points total of 89 was surpassed only by the Invincibles in 2004. Ødegaard believes that consistency will breed more confidence among a young squad who face Manchester United and Liverpool on their pre-season tour of the United States this month.

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“It is easy to find the motivation because we all want to win. We all want the same thing and we are all pushing each other so hard every day – staff, players, supporters,” he says. “That’s quite easy because we have the big goal there and we were so close. It is just about doing those small things every day to become a little bit better and in the end I’m sure it is going to be rewarded with a trophy.”

Mikel Arteta acknowledged last week that Arsenal must “be conscious” of the Premier League’s tighter financial regulations as they consider strengthening his squad, with the Italy defender Riccardo Calafiori and a striker among potential arrivals. Ødegaard questioned whether reinforcements were needed at centre-forward after Havertz scored 13 league goals and then thrived there for Germany at the Euros.

“We have unbelievable quality in the squad and we showed what we are capable of, especially towards the last part of the season. We made history. I am really pleased with the squad and we have unbelievable quality, so I am not too worried about that.”

Havertz turned 25 last month and a number of Arsenal’s key players are entering their mid-20s with vast experience. Ødegaard expects them to reap the benefits of their growing maturity in the coming season. “You feel like you are more prepared,” he says.

“There are a lot of young players in the team and I feel like I am one of the older guys and I like that. To have that experience and hopefully use it in the best possible way. Getting older you feel more responsible and you feel like you are hitting your peak. Hopefully, there is a lot more to come.”

Tickets for Arsenal v Manchester United at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California, on Saturday 27 July are available to buy.


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