MARTIN ODEGAARD is ready to make his Champions League return and this time he wants to really make his mark on the competition.
Arsenal’s stand-in skipper has led the Gunners to the brink of a top four finish and a return to the tournament which the club used to take for granted.
Victory in Thursday’s North London derby away to Spurs would guarantee Champions League qualification for the first time since 2016 after 19 consecutive years in football’s top club competition.
And Odegaard is desperate to get another crack at Europe’s elite after his tantalising taste of the big-time 18 months ago.
For while the Norwegian playmaker officially spent six years as a Real Madrid player, he only managed two cameo appearances in the Champions League group stage against Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk before signing for Arsenal last year.
He says: “I’ve played a couple of games there but don’t feel like I’ve really been part of it.
“I want to really get involved in there and fight for the Champions League.
“That’s where the best teams want to be so of course qualification would be a big thing for me and for Arsenal.”
Arsenal are now in pole position to secure a top four finish following a run of four consecutive victories against Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham and Leeds.
Odegaard has worn the captain’s armband in all four of those games after Alexandre Lacazette was left-out of the starting line-up by manager Mikel Arteta.
But he insists it was no big deal and says: “The manager just told me before the first game against Southampton last month that I was going to wear it and that was all.”
But now he is set to become the team leader on a permanent basis when Lacazette leaves as a free agent this summer.
And Arteta is happy to pin his trust on the driven 23-year-old who joined Arsenal for a bargain £30million last summer following a six-month loan spell at the Emirates last season.
Odegaard says: “We have a young team at Arsenal but we also have a lot of experience between us.
“We have been through a lot as a team and you can see from our performances on the pitch how much we enjoy playing together.
“The win against Leeds was such an important result. It wasn’t our best game but we got the three points and that’s all that matters at this stage of the season.
“We know the situation we’re in and it’s going to be a fight right to the end.”