Where the outcome of Arsenal vs. Manchester United will be decided is a field of failed experiments.

Where the outcome of Arsenal vs. Manchester United will be decided is a field of failed experiments.

Only three games have been played in the Premier League season, but narratives about the course of Arsenal and Manchester United’s respective campaigns are already taking shape.

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The Gunners are reportedly off to a slow start in north London. Mikel Arteta has made changes to the very system that made Arsenal contenders in the first place rather than launching them into the future with a slew of new acquisitions that were made with the intention of moving them forward.

The state of the game appears to be even more worrying at Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag attempted to create a more “progressive” team in his image, but instead managed to make Manchester United a disjointed, soft touch that gave Nottingham Forest a two-goal lead inside of three and a half minutes at home.

Those opinions are hasty, and Arteta in particular is proof that drawing conclusions too soon is foolish. Without a doubt, however, some aspects of each team’s season-opening performances will cause Arteta and Ten Hag to express private concern.

The managers had no control over a few contributing factors, like Jurrien Timber’s injury and the ongoing Old Trafford takeover drama. However, since their early-season experiments failed and both teams became unstable as a result, Arteta and Ten Hag must accept responsibility.

Both coaches will be under pressure to return to form in order to jump-start their seasons with Sunday’s matchup at the Emirates looming.

Put Thomas Partey in midfield and substitute Kai Havertz.

Even though Havertz has received harsh criticism, it is undeniable that the German has yet to settle in at the Emirates. That is more than understandable given the short time you’ve been a member of the team, but Manchester City’s consistency doesn’t allow for acclimatization phases. Right now, Arsenal must triumph.

The addition of the German and Granit Xhaka’s departure have thrown Arsenal’s midfield off balance. Last season, Thomas Partey and Xhaka worked well together, bringing a nice balance of physicality and style. The only pivot in Arsenal’s first three games has been Declan Rice, though, as Arteta prefers to play a more expansive style of football.

The exact opposite has happened instead. The base that allowed the Gunners’ attack such freedom last season has been lost, and Havertz has been occupying many of the spaces that Martin Odegaard wants to use.

Even though Timber’s injury would have been disastrous in and of itself, Arteta has made matters worse by starting Partey at right-back and moving Ben White inside. The Ghanaian can play as an inverted full-back in midfield, which is acceptable when facing weaker opposition. However, doing so on Arsenal’s right side up against Marcus Rashford would be disastrous.

The baffling desire to leave Casemiro alone in midfield has been Manchester United’s only constant through their first three games.

The Brazilian has received harsh criticism for his performances thus far and is the first to admit he hasn’t been at his best.

However, his performances speak more to the group as a whole and how Ten Hag has positioned them. This year, the Dutchman switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3, and Casemiro was given the responsibility of serving as the lone midfield pivot. It’s one of the hardest jobs in football, and for it to work properly, the rest of the team needs to be at its best. In recent weeks, United has been far from that. On the opening weekend, Wolves easily defeated their press. The following weekend at Spurs, Ten Hag criticized his forward players for “not running.” And last weekend at Old Trafford, Nottingham Forest quickly took a 2-0 lead.

Without some assistance, United won’t have a chance against Arsenal.

Casemiro has consistently been left exposed and outnumbered by the opposition’s midfield.

Christian Eriksen entered the lineup against Forest, but he lacks the stamina for a game of this magnitude on Sunday. It should be time to recall Scott McTominay to the starting XI unless United can sign a new midfielder before the transfer window closes.

Gabriel should be reinstated.

Gabriel had started 73 straight Premier League games for Arsenal prior to the win over Nottingham Forest on the season’s opening weekend when he was left off the starting lineup.

Over nearly two years, the Brazilian established himself as a key member of an Arsenal team that had risen from eighth to second in the standings.

But in his two appearances from the bench, the defender has only played 24 minutes this season.

Ben White has partnered the Frenchman so far this term, despite Gabriel and William Saliba developing a strong rapport during the previous season. There are similarities between what Arteta is doing in defense and how he’s tried to transform his midfield. He wants both of his center-backs to feel at ease in possession.

Arsenal misses Gabriel’s physicality even though White and Saliba may be more technically effective. He was the ideal partner for Saliba because of his commanding presence and commanding manner.

Arteta can bring some order back to the side’s base by reintroducing Gabriel given all the change further up the field.

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