Martin Keown has defended Martin Odegaard after the midfielder said Arsenal’s dressing room was “nice”.
The Norwegian opened about his struggles at Real Madrid as he said it was “difficult to make friends” during his time at the Bernabeu, but admitted being around Cristiano Ronaldo was a great learning curve.
In contrast, Odegaard spoke highly of his time at the Emirates so far and the friendly culture surrounding the club.
Many criticised whether a “nice” dressing room is a winning one, but Arsenal legend Keown reckons that there is nothing wrong with that.
Odegaard told Norwegian outlet TV2: “There were many tough periods both with the first team and the second team at Madrid, but being around the best made me stronger.
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“I feel that I have grown thanks to Madrid and I have learned from players like [Sergio] Ramos and Cristiano [Ronaldo]. When you are at the highest level, it is not as easy to make friends and that kind of thing. At least not when you are young and come from somewhere else.
“I came from a different dressing room culture and it is not easy to fit into a changing room [like the one at Madrid]. It was difficult but it is something that has made me stronger and I am happy to have experienced it.
“I would say there is a big difference. I am very happy at Arsenal. There is a very nice dressing room.”
And Keown leaped to the defence of Odegaard and reckons that a positive environment is exactly what Arsenal need given their recent struggles.
He said on talkSPORT: “It’s a good start because he’s obviously been in a situation where it wasn’t particularly nice and he didn’t feel that welcome,’ he replied when asked about Odegaard’s observations.
“When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal we were were a bit worried about whether he was going to be too nice, but I think we’d already shaped our personalities and characters by then so we didn’t necessarily need to worry about that.
“Martin Odegaard is just starting out in his career. He hardly played for Real Madrid. I do feel the environment needed to improve at Arsenal when you think about what was happening with [Mesut] Ozil, a lot of power there and not the greatest of role models.
“Odegaard is in a dressing room now where he feels he’s got the right environment to work in and I think that’s good as well.
“But don’t be naive. You need to be able to protect yourself and you need to be equipped with a set of banter for every player that might want to attack you because you’ve got to spin it back to them.’
“George Graham always used to say, “It’s too nice”, he wanted everybody at each other’s throats and you can have that,’ the former England centre-back added.
“But also when Wenger came in it was a totally different environment, a nice environment, where you wanted to best for people and maybe the players need that right now.
“And you have to say with Odegaard, since he’s been in there, you can see the improvements in his play. He’s actually getting games. He came off against Brighton but he played wonderfully well against Spurs.
“So he’s still learning the role, still trying to find where to be out of possession and then not lose the ball because he’s obviously one of Arsenal’s most creative players when they get it back.
“It’s the right environment for him now but you need to equip yourself with that layer of steel that you need. You have to be steely, aggressive… it’s a combination. It’s nice, tough, but it’s real.”