Arsenal signed Arteta as manager in December 2019 last season after the sacking of Unai Emery. This new season, he has gone ahead to improve every outfield position in the team. He has signed the youthful dynamism of Gabriel Magalhaes for the defence and the World Class experience of William for the attack.
But the area Arteta must have been eager to improve the most would have been the midfield, which was his playing position in his active days.
It took Arsenal till 6 hours before the close of the transfer window on Monday before they activated the buyout clause of their midfield target. And his parent club was so unexpectant of losing the player that they had discussed with new signings how they were going to utilise them alongside the player. That player is Ghanaian and Atletico Madrid midfielder, Thomas Partey.
Very well rated in the Spanish topflight and by the Arsenal supporters, Thomas Partey arrives as a key figure in arguably the the third best side in Spanish football.
But would Partey really be an improvement to this Arsenal side? What does he bring to the team?
At 27 years of age, Partey brings a wealth of experience to an erratic Arsenal side. Partey is a full-fledged international, churning 26 competitive caps for Ghana. At club level, Partey has played 291 career games, with 163 coming in the best-rated league in the world. 31 of those games have come in the highest competition at club level, the UEFA Champions League.
LEADERSHIP AND DISCIPLINE
Arsenal have a composed captain in Aubameyang, but in sincere honesty it was a rather enforced responsibility, as Aubameyang was given the armband to encourage him to extend his contract with the club. A more natural leader in Granit Xhaxa has shown rashness in decision making and doesn’t have a guaranteed spot in the team.
Enter Partey who currently captains a very experienced Ghanaian side containing the older Ayew brothers. Partey had 4 players ahead of him in the captaincy hierarchy at Atletico, but this did not deter him, as he is known to be a very vocal player.
Along with this trait comes a calm head, an attribute lacking at the London club. Last season, Arsenal were the most aggressive team in the EPL, with 86 yellow cards and 5 red cards. Alternatively, for a player whose job it is to tackle, Partey has only once in his Atletico career accumulated double figures in bookings. He also has just one red card in his five years at Atletico.
This is obviously the strongest reason why Arsenal where so desperate to get their man, Partey is a very technical player with good TACKLING, dribbling, passing, and shooting abilities.
Partey averaged 2 tackles per game in the La Liga, better than every other Arsenal player except Maitland-niles. He also averaged 1.4 interceptions per game, with no Arsenal player managing any more.
Partey is also a very difficult player to get past. Except Lucas Torreira, no other Arsenal player was dribbled past less than the Ghanaian International.
Although lacking a towering physical presence, Partey is very adept at winning aerial balls. Except defenders, no Arsenal player wins more aerial duel than him. But even with defenders no player has a better aerial duel success. This gives Arsenal an added advantage in deadball situations as they managed just 5 headed goals last season.
When in possession, Partey is a very different player from the one trying to win possession. Even though he is a centre midfielder, only one Arsenal player completed more dribbles than him and that is flamboyant winger, Nicolas Pepe. Partey has so good a skill set that of the 348 players to have attempted 50+ take-ons in Europe’s top five divisions, Partey came first in terms of dribbling accuracy.
It’s one thing to make a attempts lots of passes, it’s another thing to be deliberately positive with them. Partey excels in this, as he makes more forward passes than any Arsenal player. He also makes more passes into the opponent third of the field than all Arsenal players except Xhaka.
Arsenal possess more than average of the ball in the league and teams tend to sit deep against such teams. In such situations, it is more difficult to get the ball into this box, long-range shots tend to prove crucial here. In this stat, no Arsenal player attempted more shots from outside the box than Partey.
At the beginning of the season, Arsenal had 2 natural defensive midfielders in Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira, but both players left the club before the arrival of Partey leaving a void in that position. This made the signing of the Ghanaian all the more pertinent. Partey is also capable of playing anywhere in midfield.
One other very strong reason, Partey will improve Arsenal’s defensive frailties is that he arrives from one of the best defensive teams in Europe.
Since Partey joined Atletico, they have never conceded up to 30 goals in a season. In fact, they have conceded the least number of goals in each of the last five seasons.
In the last decade, no team in Europe has kept more clean sheets than the Spanish side. Arsenal kept 10 clean sheets last season compared to Atletico’s 20. TWO TIMES BETTER. .
Partey is also rated by stats-aggregator Whoscored at 7.08 which better than any Arsenal player, even Aubameyang.
So conclusively, Arsenal are signing a midfield maestro in Thomas Partey who is gifted with an array of technical abilities and defensive awareness.
Arsenal fans, though, should not get easily carried away as Africa’s most expensive player, Nicolas Pepe came with more impressive stats on paper but has struggled with consistency.
In the end, if Thomas Partey acclimatises quick enough, Arsenal have a worldie of a player in hand. One who is more than capable of moving Arsenal to the next level which Arteta told Willian is “to win the Champions League in three years.”