Benfica 1-1 Arsenal: Talking Points from Battle in Rome

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Martin Odegaard of Arsenal (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

It was most certainly a disappointing night for Arsenal in the Europa League as they came up against Benfica in a neutral venue in the first leg of the round of 32.

The Gunners controlled the majority of the game, especially the first half, where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a massive opportunity from close range 20 minutes in to put the Gunners in the lead.

Benfica’s Pizzi converted from the penalty spot early on in the second-half following a handball in the box from Emile Smith-Rowe.

two minutes later, Arsenal responded and equalised through youngster Bukayo Saka. Loanee Martin Odegaard slipped a through ball to Cedric down the left, who was then able to cross it to Saka in the box for the youngster to put it away.

The game continued with big chances coming from both sides but nothing could break the deadlock and the scoreline remained 1-1, with the second leg being played next week.

Here are some of my talking points from the game…

Martin Odegaard impresses for Arsenal

Mikel Arteta handed Martin Odegaard his Europa League debut tonight and I’m sure he will be pleased with what he saw out on the pitch.

The attacking midfielder has a keen eye for accurate passes and has a creative mindset and always found himself in the right positions to play passes into the final third. He had a pass success rate of 92%, the third-highest on the pitch behind Pizzi for Benfica and teammate Dani Ceballos.

It was admittedly disappointing to see, especially in the first half, the number of times that the other players picked the wrong pass when the Norwegian was in plenty of space in the middle, but he still managed to be involved in plenty of the action.

As well as his pass accuracy, he created two chances in front of goal and has certainly proved his place in the Arsenal starting Xl. Since Mesut Ozil moved to Fenerbache we are starting to see a likeness between the German and Odegaard; the quick accurate passes and always finding the right positions to pass the ball into.

Arsenal will certainly want to keep the 22-year old after his loan finishes at the end of the season.

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