Arsenal ‘lacking pace and fluidity’ as concerns are raised over midfield after £105m transfer

Ciaran McCarthy
Declan Rice, Arsenal, August 2023
Declan Rice among Arsenal squad on touchline

Micah Richards feels Arsenal were “lacking pace and fluidity” in their Premier League opener, and their attempt to fit Thomas Partey and Declan Rice into the same team didn’t work “how they wanted it to”.

The Gunners have as yet made three summer transfers. They’ve signed Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber, and the former seems to be the most important of those.

That’s due to the fact that he was the most expensive, and comes into the side as one of the league’s best players in his position.

With Havertz also being used as a midfielder, Mikel Arteta has a challenge to fit all the midfield options into one side. In the 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest – their first league game of the season – that was achieved by sticking Partey at right-back.

Former Premier League defender Richards does not feel that decision worked the way Arsenal wanted.

“For me, I’m not sure it worked out today,” he said on Match of the Day.

“Obviously, Partey started out in that right-back role and I could see the intent from the start of the game.

“What they wanted to do is Partey to go inside to leave all the space for [Bukayo] Saka, so Saka can come to the ball in a one-versus-one situation, or he can go over the top.

“But the lacking of pace and fluidity in Arsenal’s play… Arsenal are moving the ball left to right too slow. If you’re going to play like this you need to move the ball from right to left, left to right as soon as possible to get them in these key areas where they’re going to hurt them.”

Richards seemingly feels the balance of the side, and the fluidity that could be brought, might be better with somebody else in the right-back role.

“It was a great result for them to get off with a win but I just think everything was a little bit too slow,” Richards said.

“People are asking how they are going to fit with Rice and Partey in this system, they tried it today and of course they’ve won but I just don’t believe it worked exactly how they wanted it to work.”

As well as the fluidity of the side going forwards, Richards also feels Partey could be exposed defensively.

“One concern I do have is, defensively, if you play in that position you’re going to get isolated one versus one. Has he got the capability to deal with that situation? We know that in midfield [he can], but against a better team they could’ve got punished,” Richards added.

Of course, it’s only the first game of the season, and Partey might well settle into the position if he’s given the opportunity more often.

READ MORE: Neville says ‘jury is out’ on crucial Arsenal duo as £50m, £24m transfers are hastily questioned