Thomas Partey & Granit Xhaka: The Link-Up Arsenal Didn’t Know They Needed

Arsenal, Thomas Partey (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Thomas Partey (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images) /

After a prolonged process, Thomas Partey is now an Arsenal player.

It seems that Arsenal had been flirting with the idea of bringing the Ghanaian onboard for almost two years now, but the signing wasn’t officially completed until the final moments of this summer’s extended transfer window.

Mikel Arteta has been adamant about adding more midfield proficiency to his side, and Partey could be just what this Arsenal squad is missing.

Arteta may have to compromise the regular 3-4-3 formation that he has recently favored, however, he has the right pieces to do so. Similar to fellow Premier League clubs Liverpool and Manchester City, the addition of Partey may require the shift to a 4-3-3.

Granit Xhaka, who has been a staple in Arteta’s new-look Arsenal, has the ability to wear many hats for his team. The Swiss has sacrificed his preferred role to help Arsenal continue to find success under new management.

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The incorporation of Partey will force Arteta to switch up tactics, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of Xhaka. Arteta doesn’t have to make the choice between the two, but rather allow them to work in tandem. The two of them together can work as Arsenal’s deep-lying-midfield duo.

Partey has been keeping up with Arsenal since they first showed interest in the 2018/19 season, and has spoken of his admiration for fellow deep-lying midfielder Xhaka.

The two playing in the same area on the pitch doesn’t mean that the pair will be one dimensional, though.

Partey has a much higher defensive work rate than Xhaka, exceeding him in tackles, interceptions and recoveries. He has a bite to his game, winning almost 70% of the tackles that he attempted during his final season as an Atletico Madrid player, while he also plays more progressively than his new counterpart in Xhaka.

Although our former captain has exceeded him in touches the past three seasons, Partey more than doubles the 28-year-old’s amount of both attempted and completed dribbles.

As one of La Liga’s top five central-midfielders in dribble success rate last year, Partey’s efficiency on the ball is superb. Additionally, he has operated in much more of an offensive role for Ghana, scoring ten goals in 27 caps.

Where Xhaka lags behind Partey in work rate, he makes up for in other areas. Since Arteta’s arrival, the Swiss has been the Gunners’ on-pitch leader. He leads from his position, whether it be expressed vocally or by example.

He is also vital as the team’s pivot, tucking in between the defense and the midfield, making switches that allow the team to play in Arteta’s schema of building up from the back, something that the manager isn’t willing to give up.

Arteta has added a massive piece to his budding Arsenal team. At this point, the addition of Partey seems to pose a question of tactical/personnel rotation, however, the dexterous organization that the Spaniard has already shown he is capable of can put any doubts of his orchestration style to rest.

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Xhaka and Partey shouldn’t be seen as competing for each other’s starting spot. Instead, the two can combine harmoniously to give Arsenal depth in the midfield that they have so desperately needed.