Freddie Ljungberg has criticised Arsenal’s decision to sign Martin Odegaard on loan, claiming it is the wrong way to “go forward as a football club”.
Mikel Arteta made the decision to bring the Real Madrid star to north London, during the most recent transfer window.
The Norwegian was signed for the remainder of this season and has become an instant fixture in the Gunners starting line-up.
One consequence of that has been Emile Smith Rowe being moved out of his traditional No.10 role, into more of a left winger.
Martin Keown and Tony Adams have previously been highly critical of the signing, with the former suggesting Odegaard was a ‘project’ that Arsenal didn’t have time to complete.
And speaking ahead of the derby, Ljungberg, who gave Smith Rowe his debut during his short stint as interim boss, has said pulling him out of his preferred position is not an ideal situation.
Asked if he was surprised by the signing, he told Sky Sports: “Yes, I’m a little bit like – Odegaard is a great player, don’t get me wrong.
“But if you have young players in the same kind of position that you want to develop, you take someone on loan, that you don’t have a buy option on, you’re just developing for another club, like Madrid in this case.
“I don’t understand that 100%. I think if we want to go forward with Arsenal as a football club, it’s the young ones that will make a difference.
“They need games and Emile doesn’t need to be a winger, being a moved for another player. He needs to play in his position.”
Ljungberg was left slightly red-faced, however, as Smith Rowe played an influential role in Arsenal’s opening goal against Tottenham was was, ironically, scored by Odegaard.
The English youngster carried the ball down the left flank before playing in Kieran Tierney, who pulled the ball back for Odegaard to make it 1-1 going into half-time.
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Ljungberg handed Smith Rowe his senior bow after he replaced Unai Emery in 2019 and added that he was always convinced that the academy graduate had a bright future at the club.
He added: “I was always convinced about him, that’s why I gave him his debut. I was criticised by some, who thought ‘what is going on here?’.
“But I felt he would benefit from starting a game and learning from it and he has so much talent. He’s strong, good understanding of the game and very good feet, he has a bright future.”
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