Arteta backs Pepe and Willian as he waits for Odegaard updates

By Sports Desk January 23, 2021

Mikel Arteta was unable to offer any further update on the progress of a deal to sign Martin Odegaard as the Arsenal boss defended the performances of under-fire duo Nicolas Pepe and Willian.  

Media reports suggested the Premier League club could complete the loan signing of midfielder Odegaard on Friday. 

However, the Norway international still remains a Real Madrid player for now at least, while his prospective new club exited the FA Cup on Saturday away at Southampton.  

After the holders bowed out 1-0 following a Gabriel own goal at St Mary's Stadium, Arteta revealed he expects to receive further news about potential signings. 

When quizzed over the situation regarding Odegaard, he replied: "I don't know. Obviously we played today. Since last night I don't have any news.

"Probably I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal."  

The Arsenal boss was also asked if Odegaard coming in could stifle Emile Smith Rowe, who has impressed since being drafted into the first team during the busy festive period.  

"I cannot talk about any player who is not ours," Arteta replied. "We have a clear idea of how we want to develop our players."  

Smith Rowe was not involved against Southampton as Arsenal's FA Cup defence came to a disappointing end on the south coast.  

Willian and Nicolas Pepe were given the chance to impress but neither was able to help the visitors find a way through, leaving Arteta to face questions over their output this season.  

Willian has played 919 minutes in the Premier League this season, providing three assists and creating 12 chances in open play. The Brazilian has yet to score for Arsenal since signing a three-year deal in the previous transfer window, though.  

Pepe, meanwhile, has managed five goals so far in his second year at the club following a big-money move from Lille, a deal that was completed prior to Arteta's return to the north London club.   

However, in just 479 minutes in the league this term, he has not managed to create a single opportunity for a team-mate in open play.

"They tried to give their best, you can see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality," Arteta said of the pair.  

"The intention is there; the willingness is there. This is what we demand of them to do. After that, the decision-making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they had, the hardest thing is the end product.  

"We are going to keep supporting them as much as we can, as a coaching staff and as a club, because that's what it needs. 

"They need to keep working hard and try to improve their performances." 

Arsenal are back at Southampton on Tuesday for a Premier League fixture, followed by a showdown with Manchester United next Saturday. 

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