It’s been a wierd inaugural season for Thomas Partey at Arsenal. Signed from Atletico Madrid on switch deadline day in October, the Ghanaian midfielder responded to Arsenal’s SOM (Save Our Midfield) in a deal value round £45m. The place Arsenal are involved, that isn’t pocket change- particularly because the hole between the current and the Gunners’ most up-to-date Champions League qualification yawns ever wider.
Atleti weren’t joyful about the way in which that Arsenal triggered Partey’s launch clause within the last moments of the switch window however provided that they received La Liga this season, it didn’t seem to unduly perturb them on the pitch. After 5 years at Atleti, the phrase was that Partey was serious about a brand new problem and the chance to be the principle man in Arsenal’s midfield reasonably than a cog in Simeone’s wheel.
At 27, he’s approaching his prime years and rescuing Arsenal from their post-Cazorla malaise supplied Thomas the chance to burnish his fame. Shortly after the signing was accomplished, we recorded an episode of the Arsenal Imaginative and prescient Podcast wherein we mentioned whether or not Arsenal should be spending this type of sum on a 27-year previous at such an early stage of a rebuild.
Predictably, we obtained some pushback as a result of followers are excited when their group full massive cash transfers and don’t actually need to hear why they may not be a good suggestion. I expressed some doubt in regards to the signing on the episode based mostly purely on Partey’s age- I knew little or no about him as a participant as a result of I don’t watch a lot La Liga nor do I watch Ghana.
My drawback with the signing was that it leaves completely no room for something apart from a transformative player- Partey may properly be that participant nevertheless it’s an enormous threat and I wasn’t satisfied it was an particularly calculated one. Arsenal opted to set off his launch clause after a summer time pursuing Houssem Aouar and, in equity, I understood the chronology of occasions.
Arsenal wanted each a quantity 10 and a central midfielder (a scenario Arsenal discover themselves in once more this summer time) however may most likely solely afford one. It made sense to maneuver on to Partey as soon as the Aouar flame was completely extinguished. Ted Knutson of Statsbomb was on the receiving finish of some acid-tongued rebuke for his scepticism over the deal however I assumed what he mentioned made a whole lot of sense.
“When you purchase younger guys and so they don’t work out, at the very least you may promote them on at a small loss and roll the cube once more (Lucas Torreira). However in case you purchase/signal an older participant on massive wages and so they don’t work out, you’re useless. You both should eat a ton of their wages to maneuver them on, or they stick round till the top of their contract with declining manufacturing.”
A working example right here is Matteo Guendouzi. The final 12 months of his Arsenal profession have been an unmitigated catastrophe, regardless of a promising begin to his time in N5. He was fully frozen out of the group by Mikel Arteta after one too many shows of insolence and has hitherto loved a totally unremarkable mortgage spell at Hertha Berlin.
He now has one 12 months left on his contract. But, if studies from France are to be believed, he would be the best and quickest participant to shift this summer time. His worth has tanked in comparison with the place it will have been in 2019- however he nonetheless has a price and Arsenal nonetheless stand to make a modest revenue on their funding. They are going to most likely take a small hit to maneuver Lucas Torreira on.
Neither of those strikes has labored out however neither has been particularly damaging, both. Whenever you signal gamers of their late prime years, there isn’t any margin for error. Arsenal’s midfield has been so beneath par for therefore lengthy that any signing in that space will instantly be anticipated to rescue the midfield- it most likely explains why a whole lot of us over-evaluated Torreira and Guendouzi initially.
Partey has to work out, he needs to be the fulcrum of the midfield for the rest of his contract and he needs to be a very good one. We’re one 12 months into his contract with the impression of a season, not a lot wasted as one which has left us greedy for stable conclusions. In Thomas’ case there are, clearly, a whole lot of caveats obtainable.
He moved to a brand new league and a brand new nation on deadline day, which this season was properly into October with the season properly beneath method. Shifting international locations in the course of the covid pandemic is difficult in its personal proper, he had health points which had been nearly actually mismanaged by the membership initially. He additionally got here into a really dysfunctional group.
It was fairly the project, but we are able to see that he’s most likely Arsenal’s finest midfield player- which he actually should be. He possesses qualities that the group has been crying out for since Santi Cazorla’s achilles went to heaven. Per FBRef, he’s within the 89th percentile within the division for progressive passes, progressive carries and dribbles accomplished and within the 88th percentile for profitable tackles.
His skill to obtain the ball on the half-turn, to withstand the opposition press and spray the ball into the extensive channels are revolutionary for an Arsenal midfield that has for too lengthy pushed its meals across the plate. The issue is that, to date, we haven’t seen these qualities sufficient and given the worth Arsenal paid for the participant which means we have to see all of them the rattling time.
With a full pre-season behind him, Partey should be in a greater place to carry his A-game extra persistently. Subsequent season he’ll both have the ability to construct on his good understanding with Granit Xhaka, or else Xhaka will likely be bought and Arsenal will purchase him a brand new accomplice. Perhaps Arsenal have the chance to do one thing actually uncommon and intentionally scout a alternative that enhances Partey’s attributes.
In the end, Partey was a “should work now” signing and he’s endured one thing of a false begin. I’m reminded of a documentary Louis Theroux shot some years in the past on the grownup leisure business. In some unspecified time in the future within the episode, Louis is on set whereas a male performer is struggling to, as Josh Kroenke may need it, “be excited.” The cameraman yells on the forlorn male actor again and again.
“Come on man, we have to get this shot!” Louis interrupts the cameraman’s lambaste and gently enquires whether or not it’s notably useful for the actor who’s clearly affected by a contact of stage fright. “I don’t care,” the cameraman spits again, “that’s the fucking job; that’s what we employed him for.” The identical is true of Thomas Partey- flashes of high quality received’t be sufficient to justify this gamble. Arsenal wants him to be wonderful and so they want him to be wonderful now. Subsequent season, the highlight will likely be harsh and we have to get this shot.
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