Martin Odegaard looks set to miss the north London derby on Sunday after returning a positive Covid test.
Arsenal confirmed the news on Twitter ahead of the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Liverpool. While they did not confirm the date of Odegaard’s positive test, the mandatory seven-day isolation period will almost certainly rule him out of contention at the weekend.
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While the government has announced that the self-isolation period for those who test positive for Covid will be cut from seven days to five, that will only come into force next Monday. As such, Odegaard will be sidelined for the full week.
His absence would represent a serious setback for Mikel Arteta’s side ahead of one of their most important games of the season. Tottenham are currently one place and two points behind Arsenal, meaning that a derby day triumph would see them leapfrog their rivals into fifth.
Speaking about the importance of Odegaard last month, Arteta said: “He’s very, very young but he’s already had a lot of experience in different clubs, in international football.
“The ceiling for him, I don’t know where it is, with the talent that he has, the desire that he has, how much he wants to always improve and get better.
“We’ve got a tremendous player there. He is a natural leader. If you look for the perfect professional, he wouldn’t be very far from that.”
Odegaard has started Arsenal’s last 10 matches in all competitions and, having made 21 appearances already this term, his status as one of Arteta’s trusted lieutenants is undeniable. He has four goals for the season so far, with his most recent coming against Southampton in December.
During his initial spell on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid, he scored a vital equaliser in the north London derby to cancel out Erik Lamela’s outrageous rabona. Arteta’s side went on to win the game thanks to a penalty from Alexandre Lacazette, making Odegaard an instant cult hero.
Arsenal are already light in midfield as things stand, with Emile Smith Rowe currently sidelined with a groin injury. They are also missing Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, who are at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana and Egypt respectively.
Having tested positive for Covid himself, Granit Xhaka returned to start at the base of midfield alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga at Anfield. He was sent off with just under 25 minutes on the clock and will now sit out the north London derby through suspension.
With limited options at Arteta’s disposal, Odegaard was always going to be sorely missed at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Xhaka’s red card has only made the situation more drastic, leaving Arteta to come up with a creative solution as derby day looms.
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