Arsenal were dealt a setback in their pre-season preparations as they were beaten 2-0 by Manchester United in New York, with all three of their major summer arrivals starting the game.
This was the first run-out for the new-look Gunners midfield with Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Martin Odegaard starting as a trio in the middle, with Thomas Partey on the bench.
Given the fees paid for Rice and Havertz, this seems likely to be the midfield of choice for Mikel Arteta this season, following the departure of Granit Xhaka, but the trio were far from fluent on their first outing, as Arsenal struggled to create anything of note.
Speaking after the game, Arteta called for patience over the new midfield shape, claiming that the new signings will need time to adapt to the system and playing with each other.
“When they play 55 times together they will be better. It will flow better, they will understand each other better and will be more dominant and better,” he stated.
“It takes time to glide and we have to respect that. But I saw a lot of positive things.”
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How should Arsenal line up in midfield?
There may be some nerves amongst Arsenal fans about how long it will take for this midfield three to fully adapt and start playing to their full capability. Whilst pre-season is a good time for them to gel together, it does raise a question over whether they will be ready to start the Community Shield match, or the season opener against Nottingham Forest.
Arteta may be tempted to go back to his original shape to begin the season, with Partey at the base of midfield, and Rice slotting straight in as Xhaka’s replacement, before then moving towards his vision with Rice as a number six and Havertz next to Odegaard.
Whilst this may give Arsenal more security in the middle of the park, Arteta should not panic after one pre-season defeat. These upcoming friendlies are a good chance for Rice, Havertz and Odegaard to build momentum together, and given that there are two new arrivals in the centre, it is only natural that they would not click immediately in their first game together.