Martin Odegaard won’t be continuing a trend of Arsenal players returning from international duty earlier than expected.
The Gunners captain made his return from a calf injury – handing Mikel Arteta a massive team selection boost for next Saturday’s North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur in the process – by starting and playing 71 minutes of Norway’s 2-1 UEFA Nations League defeat at the hands of Slovenia.
In truth, Odegaard did provide a fitness update when speaking to Norwegian media outlet TV2 before the game and it sounded positive: “We can hope so,” he said when asked if he expected to start. “It feels good so far. Yes [if he is ready to start], I would like to think so.”
Odegaard’s appearance came just hours after it was confirmed that two of his Arsenal teammates were on their way back to London, with Thomas Partey requiring further assessment on a suspected knee injury, whilst Takehiro Tomiyasu’s withdrawal from the Japan squad was “due to club circumstances.”
But judging by the 23-year-old’s social media activity, it would appear that he is not going to be the third Gunners player to head back to London Colney ahead of schedule as he posted an image of the Norway national team on to his Instagram Stories with the caption that read: “Ses pa tirsdag”.
That in English translates to a simple four-word message: “See you on Tuesday”. This is the clearest indication that Odegaard will be leading his country out against Serbia as they look for the result that secures top spot in their UEFA Nations League group which also comes with a play-off spot for Euro 2024 qualification.
There had been a scenario that may have allowed Arsenal and Norway to reach a compromise for the playmaker to play just one of the Nations League fixtures. But for that to have happened, Stale Solbakken’s side needed to have held on to the lead given to them by Erling Haaland and hoped for a favour from Sweden against Serbia.
Ultimately neither result went in Norway’s favour and following an Alexander Mitrovic hat-trick in Serbia’s 4-1 win over Sweden on Saturday, it’s effectively winner takes all on Tuesday at the Ullevaall Stadion in Oslo – although the hosts have a slight advantage knowing that they just need to avoid defeat to be promoted to League A.
With that said, the good news from an Arsenal perspective is that Odegaard appears to have come through the game unscathed and the hope is that he repeats the trick on Tuesday – if selected – in what is shaping up to be two huge games for the midfielder for club and country next week.