By Ed Elliot, PA
Martin Odegaard has warned Arsenal’s title rivals there is plenty more to come from the Premier League leaders in 2023.
The Gunners start the new year seven points clear at the summit after capitalising on slip-ups from Manchester City and Newcastle with a thrilling 4-2 New Year’s Eve success at Brighton.
Influential Gunners captain Odegaard orchestrated victory on the south coast, claiming the visitors’ second goal before providing a sublime assist for the fourth, scored by Gabriel Martinelli.
Øutstanding performance 💫 pic.twitter.com/mQTbYK4Q3T
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 1, 2023
Despite 14 wins from 16 top-flight games this term, the playmaker feels Arsenal have significant room for development as they bid to become champions for the first time since 2004.
“Of course, it’s a good moment for us,” said Odegaard.
“Being top of the table is good but, as I have said many times, we have to stay calm, keep working hard, stay in the moment, and not focus too much on the table.
“I think the best thing about it is that we still have a lot to improve, we can still get much better in many areas of the game.
“We can improve a lot and that’s what we’re going to do, just keep working hard and make sure we get even better.”
After reigning champions City and third-placed Newcastle were held to home draws by Everton and Leeds respectively, Mikel Arteta’s men wasted little time in taking advantage in Saturday’s evening kick-off at the Amex Stadium.
Bukayo Saka slotted them ahead inside 66 seconds before strikes from Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah stretched the lead to 3-0 early in the second half.
Martinelli ran half the length of the pitch to restore the three-goal cushion following a stunning first-time pass from Odegaard after Kaoru Mitoma had pulled one back, before Seagulls substitute Evan Ferguson made it 4-2 with his first Premier League goal.
Here's how things look going into 2023 🤩 pic.twitter.com/Yn6pXOScot
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 31, 2022
“All of the goals gave me a lot of pleasure,” Odegaard replied, when asked about his 39th-minute finish and his eye-catching assist.
“The most important thing is that the team scores and if it’s me or someone else, I don’t care too much.
“I’m just happy to help, so all of the goals were good.”
Arsenal host Eddie Howe’s Magpies on Tuesday, while City – spearheaded by the division’s runaway top scorer Erling Haaland – are due at Emirates Stadium in just over six weeks.
Odegaard said he has not been discussing the title race with fellow Norway international Haaland.
“No, not too much, to be honest,” said the 24-year-old. “I’m just happy for him doing well, scoring goals for fun.
“He’s smashing it, so very happy for him and that’s it.”
Arsenal looked set to face a nervy period of added time in Sussex but Mitoma had an 89th-minute finish disallowed by offside following VAR intervention.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) January 1, 2023
While the fixture ended in defeat for the Seagulls, 18-year-old Republic of Ireland striker Ferguson celebrated a milestone moment, becoming the club’s youngest Premier League scorer.
“A disappointing result, obviously we wanted to win the game, but on a personal level it’s good to get the goal,” he told Brighton’s website.
“At the end we could have, depending on the offside goal, had another chance at it but that’s the way it goes.
“I’m buzzing to get the goal. Hopefully I can just keep going and try and get another.”