How Martin Odegaard and game’s best ‘scanners’ visualise field of play

In the press
February 10, 2021

Originally published in The Times by James Gheerbrant, February 2021 We claim no ownership to content reiterated here.

One of the best assists in European football last season came in a match between Real Sociedad and Deportivo Alavés in the early weeks, and was played by Martin Odegaard — the Norway midfielder who is now on loan at Arsenal.

You may even have seen it: Odegaard nudges the ball between the legs of Tomás Pina, then looks up and plays an exquisite slide-rule pass which takes eight Alavés defenders out of the game, lures the goalkeeper off his line and gives Mikel Oyarzabal a tap-in.

What you probably didn’t see, unless you were looking for it, is the way that, just before he receives the pass from Diego Llorente, Odegaard’s head whips round like a woodpecker’s, taking a mental snapshot of the space over his shoulder. He has spoken about the importance of this facet of his game. “I do it a lot,” he told Guillem Balague. “I like to look around. Fast, small glances, but at the same time, remember to look at the ball enough too. That’s why I look up a lot, instead of fewer long ones.”

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