Paul Merson Says: Making Martin Odegaard Arsenal captain could be a masterstroke from Mikel Arteta | Football News
Paul Merson Says: Making Martin Odegaard Arsenal captain could be a masterstroke from Mikel Arteta | Football News

In his latest Sky Sports column, Paul Merson discusses Arsenal's perfect start to the season and explains why the decision to make Martin Odegaard captain could be a masterstroke from Mikel Arteta.

The Sky Sports pundit also discusses Aston Villa's poor start to the season and provides his reasons as to why Steven Gerrard's side have struggled so far.

Finally, Merson, who watched Liverpool's record-equalling 9-0 win over Bournemouth for Soccer Saturday, gives his reaction to Jurgen Klopp's side's first win of the campaign before delivering his verdict on what to expect from the final few days of the transfer window.

Read on for the Magic Man's thoughts in full...

Arsenal set for acid test against Man Utd

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Arsenal and Fulham

It's going to be hard for Arsenal at times. They are going to have to break teams down, it's going to be hard work and they will have to keep things shut at the back. Fair play to Arsenal, they came back and won the game [against Fulham].

You do see some chinks in the armour, though. Gabriel made the mistake and they go 1-0 down and then Aaron Ramsdale has to make a good save to deny Aleksandar Mitrovic. At Bournemouth last week, even though they won 3-0, Bournemouth had chances in the game. They didn't take them and sometimes that just covers over a few cracks.

Arsenal have done really well so far but their big test comes next Sunday against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Even though United haven't really been at their best, it's still going to be the acid test for this Arsenal side.

If they can go and beat Aston Villa on Wednesday and then Manchester United, then you start to think that this could carry on.

That's the thing about football, hard games follow easy games and vice-versa. Arsenal have had a good start. To win your opening four games in the Premier League is no mean feat because we've seen in this league before, there are slip-ups around every corner.

'Odegaard's captaincy will be tested, but good signs so far'

Martin Odegaard celebrates after equalising against Fulham
Image: Martin Odegaard celebrates after equalising against Fulham

It's been a very good start to Martin Odegaard's captaincy at Arsenal.

They paid £35m to Real Madrid for him. That's hardly anything.

The Premier League takes time to get used to and it would have been a kick in the teeth for him to get released by Real Madrid. It's a huge club and I'm sure he'd have wanted to go back there after his loan spell at Arsenal, but Arteta got him back and now he's showing what a player he is.

He's making things happen and when you do that, turning good play into goals and assists, that's what starts to make people take notice.

That's what he's doing and giving him the captaincy could be a masterstroke.

However, you've now got to see what happens when it isn't going as well for the team, and he isn't playing as well himself. Can he keep dragging the team through?

At the moment, though, he's doing really well. For £35m, absolutely amazing.

PL hits and misses: Odegaard leading by example

Sky Sports' Nick Wright:

There was plenty to like about Martin Odegaard's performance in Arsenal's 2-1 win over Fulham but one moment stood out.

The game had become frantic as Arsenal chased a winner but Odegaard was calm, as he always is, skipping away from two Fulham defenders in the centre circle, drawing applause in the process, then lifting a pinpoint pass out to Gabriel Martinelli on the left.

It was just one of many instances of the Norwegian, wearing the captain's armband this season and wearing it well, demonstrating the composure and quality needed to keep Arsenal moving in the right direction and keep the pressure firmly on Fulham.

His goal, his third in two games, was of course his most significant contribution, fired in with the help of a small deflection, and it was fitting that it came after combining with Bukayo Saka.

Odegaard's understanding with his younger team-mate is almost telepathic and it could be seen throughout at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal tore into Fulham on their right flank.

In total, Odegaard found Saka with 15 passes - six more than any other player - while the England international found him with 12 - nearly twice as many as he played to anyone else.

Fulham struggled to contain the pair at times and while Arsenal were made to wait for the decisive breakthrough, it felt appropriate that, between them, Odegaard and Saka played a crucial role in the comeback.

Saka is not the only team-mate Odegaard makes better, either. "Influence," said Arteta in his press conference when asked about Odegaard's contribution. "In difficult moments, take the ball and make things happen. That's what he has done."

It is what he will continue to do.

Should Arsenal strengthen?

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta spoke of his pride at how his side overcame adversity after going a goal down to Fulham to win the game 2-1

There are chances in this league this season. Chelsea haven't been great so far, Liverpool are the same, even though they were back on song against Bournemouth.

There's a huge chance for someone to grab Champions League football.

At the start of the season, you are looking and thinking it is out of Tottenham and Arsenal. Now, there are a couple of other teams in the equation too, so why not have a go?

That's why Newcastle are having a go. They are looking at it now and seeing an opportunity.

Arsenal would kick themselves if they turned down the opportunity to get a couple more players in and then missed out on the top four. They've also got a brilliant chance in the Europa League as well, so they will have a lot of football matches to play this season.

But, so far, from last summer up until now, has been excellent. Edu and Arteta need a lot of credit for this. It's been spot on.

'Cup finals around the corner for Villa already'

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Aston Villa and West Ham

The pressure is cranking up on Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa.

It's a results business. They've been beaten by Bournemouth, who have been slaughtered 4-0, 3-0 and 9-0 in their last three games. The Everton game, if that goes on another five minutes then you could definitely have seen that one end 2-2.

However, they did manage to get over the line in that one but then they lose at home to West Ham, who had previously lost their opening three games.

You follow that up with Arsenal away and Man City at Villa Park and before you know it, you are going to be in the bottom three after six or seven games and that is a dreadful start. That then makes the games against Leicester and Southampton like cup finals already.

'Gerrard doesn't know his best XI'

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Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard thinks the game was finely balanced and they just lost out to West Ham at home

They brought Philippe Coutinho in, and he can't play in the same team as Emi Buendia.

Aston Villa aren't that good that those two players can play in the same team, and that's a huge problem. They brought a lot of players in but compared to say Arsenal's recruitment, it's been chalk and cheese. They bring him, him, him and him in and then it's a bit like bingo trying to pick a team.

I don't think Gerrard knows his best team at the moment and that's hard. When you don't know your best team after four games it's a big, big problem, and now they've got two games against Arsenal and City, who are first and second in the Premier League, where their backs are going to be up against the wall.

You are going to be playing 10 men behind the ball in those two games and then after that you are going to have to revert to having a go because they will be in a desperate search of points.

It's a big couple of weeks for Villa and Gerrard, but I do think he's a top manager. Hopefully he will continue to get time and the chance to succeed at Villa because it is a long season.

PL hits and misses: Does Gerrard know his best team?

Sky Sports' David Richardson:

Everyone inside Villa Park knew the boos were coming and it did not disappoint when they arrived.

The Aston Villa supporters are beginning to turn on Steven Gerrard's underperforming side after three defeats from their first four games.

The rot spreads for longer than just this August, though, with Villa winning only two of their final 11 matches last season.

Despite starting Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins plus Phillippe Coutinho, entering the final third 68 times to West Ham's 44 and seeing more of the ball, the hosts could not muster a single big chance.

Gerrard made four much-needed changes from their dismal defeat at Crystal Palace yet he must still be wondering what his best XI is. Defeat at Bournemouth in a 4-3-3 on the opening day brought two changes, a switch to a narrow 4-4-2 and victory over Everton.

Gerrard then made three changes, switching back to a 4-3-3, for the Palace disaster before reverting again to the midfield diamond plus Ings and Watkins against West Ham, which this time failed to fire.

Now with a trip to Arsenal and the visit of Manchester City in their next two matches, what will Gerrard do?

The boo-boys' next move will be to clear their throats again.

'You shouldn't get beat 9-0!'

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the match between Liverpool and Bournemouth

This Premier League has got three or four leagues going on within it. The gulf in class between some of the teams is unreal.

Bournemouth have just played Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool and lost to a combined scoreline of 16-0 so it just shows you the difference between the sides is huge.

I don't think you should get beat 9-0. I really don't like that.

It's a really embarrassing score. You are a professional football team playing in the Premier League, it shouldn't happen.

If you get beat 9-0 on a Sunday morning that's big in itself. No player, professional or amateur, would like it.

I was beaten 5-0 as a manager and five was embarrassing enough. When it gets to six or seven, it reminds me of the old days and the old teleprinter and they used to spell the number out. If someone got beat by seven, they'd spell the number out in brackets. That is how bad it is.

'That was the real Liverpool, you can't write them off'

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says 'everything was perfect' as his side thrashed Bournemouth 9-0 at Anfield

On the other hand, that was Liverpool. I said on Soccer Saturday before the game that there weren't a million things wrong with Liverpool, despite their poor start.

They turned up at Fulham just expecting to win and wipe the floor with them. In the end, they came back twice and drew 2-2. Against Crystal Palace it was an unbelievable performance in the second half really after going down to 10 men. They still managed to get back into that game and get a point, and they probably should have gone on to win that one.

The Man Utd game looked after itself. I didn't see Liverpool winning that game. It was the perfect storm for United in that one.

But against Bournemouth, that was the real Liverpool. They were 2-0 up in six minutes, playing on the front foot and everything was perfect.

I see that continuing now. You cannot write Liverpool off because they can reel off eight wins on the trot with ease. There's a lot of football coming up, especially with the midweek stuff. You win Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday and before you know it you've got nine points and you've gone from the bottom end of the table to in and around the top four.

Midweek games make seasons. Three wins in a week can get you flying up this table very quickly.

'Plenty of transfer business still to be done'

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Paul Merson gives his opinion on Newcastle's club-record signing Alexander Isak

There's still a long way to go before the transfer deadline. I can see a lot of money being spent before the window closes.

There are already a lot of clubs under massive pressure. There are clubs like Everton, who could be selling Anthony Gordon. If they let him go for £60m then they will go and spend money, and then there's a knock-on effect around the league.

The same thing applies to Leicester with Wesley Fofana going to Chelsea. They should have some money to spend but then they'll have someone like Youri Tielemans asking why he hasn't been allowed to leave.

Then there's Newcastle who have just splashed £58m on Alexander Isak. Have they finished spending?

There's still a lot of business to be done around the league, in my opinion. There are plenty of clubs sensing an opportunity, in my opinion, and that will make for a very busy final few days of the transfer window.

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Merson believes Harry Maguire should leave Manchester United ahead of the World Cup in Qatar and also claims the defender would suit Chelsea

Follow the summer transfer window with Sky Sports

Who will be on the move this summer before the transfer window closes at 11pm on September 1?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports' digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.



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