Arsenal suffered a 2-0 defeat against Premier League rivals Manchester United in a pre-season friendly last night.

Playing at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on the latest stop of their USA tour, Arsenal faced off against Manchester United in a pre-season friendly. First half goals from Bruno Fernandes and Jason Sancho were enough to seal victory for the Red Devils.

Arsenal will feel both goals could have been prevented. Aaron Ramsdale could have done better to keep out the opener, whilst a Gabriel mis-kick meant Sancho was able to burst beyond the Brazilian centre-back and slot the ball away.

This match was something of a come-down for the north London outfit, after hammering MLS All-Stars 5-0 last time out. Results don’t hugely matter in pre-season friendlies, but there are still a few aspects of this loss that stand out.

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Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Pre-Season Friendly
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal are targets

Arsenal players were fouled 22 times in this match, as per stats from The Athletic. Erik Ten Hag’s men took a physical approach and went in hard on the Gunners. Bukayo Saka was on the end of the particularly nasty challenge from Lisandro Martinez.

Of course, there is an old rivalry between these two clubs which has blown up on the pitch many times before. This was an unusually robust approach from United for a pre-season friendly though, and hints towards what Arsenal can expect for much of the upcoming campaign. Having played brilliantly last season to make themselves title contenders, Arsenal now have a target on their back. The club’s best players, including Saka, are most likely to find themselves in the opposition’s crosshairs.

The new midfield needs time

Changing two thirds of a midfield three is always going to results in teething issues. New boys Kai Havertz and Declan Rice, playing alongside Martin Odegaard, didn’t look entirely comfortable. There were too many spaces for Manchester United to exploit.

This isn’t a surprise. However, Arteta will be hoping that Rice and Havertz’s vast amounts of previous Premier League experience will speed up the bedding-in process. As Arteta said after the match, “it takes time to glide,” as quoted by the club’s official website.

Whilst that process is going on though, the likes of Thomas Partey and Jorginho need to able to come in and add solidity and familiarity in the middle of the park when required.

Arsenal FC v MLS All-Stars - 2023 MLS All-Star Game
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Nothing is certain at the back

Arsenal’s first-choice back four looked set last season. However, competition for places has intensified this summer. Gabriel’s error in New Jersey won’t cost him his place, but he’ll be well aware that Arteta has other options he can turn to. These include a fit again Takehiro Tomiyasu, and Jake Kiwior.

The Poland international, who arrived at the Emirates Stadium in January, looks to be getting better and better. He is also being repeatedly tested at left back, making him a viable alternative to Gabriel and Zinchenko.

On the other flank, Timber is already impressing. Arteta praised the Dutchman’s performance, saying, “he is adapting really quickly to the team, and you could see the confidence, the determination that he plays with.” Ben White certainly can’t rest on his laurels.

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