'I almost p*ssed myself!' – Nordtveit on Arsenal nerves & facing 'monster' Lukaku

The versatile defensive midfielder, now playing for Hoffenheim in Germany, has discussed his time under Arsene Wenger and his toughest opponents

Former Arsenal defender Havard Nordtveit has described the moment he thought he was about to make his Gunners debut, insisting he was so overcome with nerves he almost urinated!

The Norwegian ultimately ended up not being selected in a first-team game by Arsene Wenger during his four years at the club, before he was sold to Borussia Monchengladbach in 2011.

Nordtveit would eventually return to the Premier League to feature for West Ham, before again heading back to Germany and current club Hoffenheim, where he’s played 31 games in all competitions since 2017.

He has, however, looked back fondly on his time with Arsenal and Wenger, insisting he learned plenty as a young player with the Gunners, whom he joined as a 17-year-old from FK Haugesund.

He told Goal: “The move to Arsenal was the best decision of my life. I have never regretted that step. Of course it was a big step to come from FK Haugesund to Arsenal, but I had the opportunity to train with some of the world’s best players.

“Although I played for the reserves, I trained with the first team and learned an incredible amount. As a young player, it was the best thing that could happen to me.

“It [the time he nearly made his first appearance for the first team] was the last game of the 2008 season and we needed a victory at Sunderland to secure the Champions League spot.

“Philippe Senderos was supposed to start in central defence but came to me during the warm-up and told me to be ready for a substitution because he had pain in his back.

“So, when I was in the Premier League squad for the first time in this game at 18, I almost p*ssed myself on the bench because I was so nervous! We absolutely needed a win to make the Champions League, which ultimately worked out well. At the end of the day I was overjoyed, even though I was not used.

“When I was on loan from Arsenal to Salamanca in the second Spanish league [during the 2008-09 season], I had a hard time. We hoped that I could become a regular starter in Spain but the reality was different, which is why Arsenal decided to bring me back after only three months.

“In my first training session after my return, Wenger asked me how I liked it and I said, ‘bad experiences are good experiences’. He laughed heartily and hugged me. I will never forget that moment, and I believe he too will immediately remember me when he hears this story.”

Nordtveit also discussed the best players he’s played alongside, while claiming that Eden Hazard and “monster” Romelu Lukaku are the toughest opponents he’s come up against.

He added: “[His toughest opponent is] Eden Hazard. He can turn on a one Euro coin and immediately record top speed again – that’s awesome.

“When I played against Everton with West Ham, I also found out that Romelu Lukaku is an absolute monster. I also remember games against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robert Lewandowski.

“Marco Reus and Marc-Andre ter Stegen [are the team-mates that] impressed me the most. If Marco is fit, he is one of the absolute top players in Europe. The same applies to Ter Stegen. He is number one at Barcelona and is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in Europe.”

Nordtveit also had praise for interim Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, insisting the Old Trafford legend was his idol growing up and that he’s sought advice from him in the past.

He said: “Every time I am asked who my idol is, I respond with Solskjaer. He is an extraordinary person and athlete. Since we have the same agent, I know him personally and he’s given me advice during my career.”

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