Oh Maan, an Øde to Norway
By Sumaiya Vawda
If Erling Håland is the crown piece of Norwegian football, then Arsenal currently hold the nation's orb and sceptre. In Martin Ødegaard and Frida Maanum, the club has young, enterprising midfielders to propel it this season. At various points of the transfer window, Ødegaard's departure from Arsenal at the end of his loan seemed a final goodbye. There was reported conviction at Madrid to retain the services of Norway's captain. But once set in motion, his Arsenal transfer materialised quite rapidly- that too for a fee under Real's early hopes. Is Martin Ødegaard the absolute gem that will transform a statement jewellery piece? Unlikely, but if his sashaying debut as a permanent Arsenal player (against West Brom) is anything to go by, he will unquestionably distract from rust and other defects. After all, this is the boy wonder wooed by Arsène Wenger and signed by Real Madrid as a 16-year old. His latest outing against Latvia earned plaudits for the level of chance creation. Per Squawka, he also completed five take-ons, six crosses and won eight duels to put Norway second in their World Cup qualifying group. The other Norwegian 'wunderkind' on Arsenal's books is Frida Maanum. Having captained Linköpings FC at age 21, her arrival in London is nothing short of a coup. The dynamic midfielder has been touted as one of the biggest upcoming talents for her progressive runs, decisive interceptions and imaginative passing. Marc Lamberts' Zonal Pressing report pins her xG per 90 at 0.34 and xA per 90 at 0.17 last season. It will be interesting to see how this translates in a deeper role at Arsenal.
A WSL debut at the Emirates Stadium against the reigning champions is as nerve-wracking as it comes. Yet, Maanum seemed unfazed by the occasion. Jonas Eidevall set his team up for left-sided overloads, with Katie McCabe's high positioning creating space behind the Chelsea defence. Here, Maanum dutifully dropped into a left-back role to cover the vacant space (à la Granit Xhaka). It's challenging to stand out in a midfield that boasts Kim Little, but Arsenal's new number 12 drew attention for her potent movement and intelligent positioning. She looked a Viking on an expedition to thrill the Emirates crowd with forceful, swerving shots. Ødegaard and Maanum share technical and leadership qualities. At just 22-years old, both carry good experience and can hopefully perform to a proficiency that aids the men and women's sides in reaching their (differing) targets. Ultimately, there is no doubt Arsenal sit on a stockpile of Scandinavian talent.