3 Budget Arsenal Alternatives for the “Thomas Partey” Role

Arsenal, Thomas Partey (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Thomas Partey (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images) /
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2. Kalvin Phillips – £30m

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 12: Andrew Robertson of Liverpool is challenged by Kalvin Phillips. (Photo by Paul Ellis – Pool/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 12: Andrew Robertson of Liverpool is challenged by Kalvin Phillips. (Photo by Paul Ellis – Pool/Getty Images) /

Leeds’ longtime servant Kalvin Phillips is a key cog in the Marcelo Bielsa system, which should be your first hint that he’s seriously talented in possession. He averaged around 55 passes per match last season in the Championship, completing 85% of his short passes and 55% of his long passes.

And his numbers actually stuck to that track against Liverpool in the 4-3 stunner this weekend, completing 51 passes, 84% of his short passes, and 57% of his long passes. He’s also proven himself a bit of a through-ball specialist, playing line-breaking passes to Patrick Bamford with shocking consistency. If he can keep that up, his price is going to take a serious hike soon.

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Out of the 37 matches he played for Leeds last season, he started all 37, playing 3250 minutes out of 3330. He’s rarely injured – something this Arsenal squad can always use more of – and as a holding midfielder, his defensive numbers are similarly stellar.

He’s a strong tackler, a very good shot-blocker, and is very strong in his aerial duels. But most importantly, he rarely loses his head. Although his nine yellow cards last season might seem to tell a different story, his composure at the base of the midfield is almost N’Golo Kante-esque.

Pros of Signing Phillips

He’s the full package of a holding midfielder, especially in a possession-based offense. He’s as strong on the ball as he is off it, and could make an instant impact in the Arsenal midfield. He’s generally a very complete player, and one we would do well to sign.

He put out the same goal/assist numbers as Dani Ceballos this past season, in a role where his offensive contributions are placed rather intentionally on the back burner in deference to defensive stability.

He’s also only 24, and his potential for growth – especially with Arsenal’s facilities and resources at his disposal – is frankly staggering. He has the potential to be a real world-beater, if given the chance to shine. I vote we give him that chance.

Cons of Signing Phillips

Speed is the biggest one. He’s relatively quick once he gets going, but he struggles to get off the mark well, which means that if he’s caught out of position, he’ll often have to foul to stop the opponent progressing. It’s a tactical choice of his, not one sourced from an angry place, but his positional discipline must be at top level in order for him to succeed in the league.

And that’s the other issue. He needs time to prove his consistency in English football, and as Leeds have just been promoted, they’ll be incredibly unwilling to let go of their star midfielder. £30m is what he’s worth, but don’t be surprised if Leeds’ valuation is far higher than that.