In Thomas Partey, Arsenal have a truly world-class player.
Mikel Arteta must build his midfield around the marquee summer signing. When Arsenal triggered Thomas Partey’s £45m release clause on transfer deadline day, supporters were understandably overjoyed. They had secured the services of one of the world’s best midfielders.
In only his second start for the club, the 27-year-old produced a brilliant display at Old Trafford. Besides carrying the ball majestically and effectively, he rarely gave Paul Pogba a moment’s peace. His presence then sorely missed in the club’s recent fixtures against Leeds United and Wolves.
Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos worked well as a pair towards the end of last season. However, in the aforementioned games, they were exposed. In a league in which athleticism and intensity have become increasingly important, both men have been found lacking.
When the Ghanaian returns from the thigh injury which he suffered against Aston Villa, there must be wholesale changes to the midfield unit. Furthermore, those changes must address the atrocious ball progression problem.
One suggestion is to play Partey as the sole defensive midfielder, with Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka flanking him in slightly more advanced positions. Though this midfield trio would be unconventional and green, it would be much more dynamic than the lethargic Xhaka-Ceballos pivot.
A player of immense physical stature, technical quality, and tactical nous, Partey is the prototypical modern-day midfielder. Undoubtedly raw, Willock has a knack for contributing to goals and has the attitude and engine to play in a box-to-box role.
Saka is one of Arsenal’s best players, yet uncertainty remains as to where he should play. Considering his immense ability and acumen, many fans support the idea of him playing in central midfield, where he could impact the game consistently.
Partey has been an Arsenal player for a little under two months. Regardless, his huge release clause was paid for a reason. Arteta must build his midfield around him.