Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe have completely revitalized the Arsenal midfield, as witnessed in the 3-1 Premier League win over Southampton on Tuesday night.
While the former, an experienced battle-hardened midfield warrior, is still being eased into action after various injuries (the old Arsenal curse at it again), the latter, a youthful and energetic academy product has had no less of an impact. The two have become undroppable and their impact has been down to one main aspect of their play: tempo.
Thomas Partey was thought by many to be the midfield destroyer we have cried out for for so long. Most of us knew he could pass the ball a bit better than he was given credit for but as he racks up minutes, we can see that he is a true box-to-box midfielder.
Not only does he win the ball back, he does so without fouling the opponent (are you taking notes Granit Xhaka?), leading to Arsenal retaining possession.
Thomas Partey and Emile Smith Rowe transform Arsenal with their speed and intelligence
This has often been pointless in the past as Mikel Arteta‘s side move the ball so slowly after regaining possession that the opposing team can get into position and hunker down in a low block. Partey, however, is a world-class operator who has amazing speed of thought.
He wins the ball back and breaks through the press with nimble dribbles forward or with quick distribution forward. He does it, however, at a speed that enables Arsenal to get the ball to their most dangerous players in more threatening areas.
Emile Smith Rowe appears to have the same speed of thought and quick tempo in passing, albeit higher up the pitch. He’s brought out the best of Alexandre Lacazette‘s link up play because the French striker finally has players willing to run beyond him.
There is suddenly cohesion in the front line and the increased tempo of play – and relentless pressing, as seen at St. Mary’s – has allowed Arsenal to secure some much needed wins as they try to climb their way back up the table. Long may it continue.