How would Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar Improve Arsenal?
By Allan Riley
Despite Arsenal’s resounding 3-0 win over Fulham, supporters are still crying out for two players to join the club. Those names are Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar of Atletico Madrid and Lyon respectively. The two midfielders have been incessantly linked with moves to the club over the summer, with fans salivating at the thought of them joining. But how would they improve Mikel Arteta’s team? It’s clear that Arsenal need midfielders. With the club looking to offload Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira, it leaves only Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Mesut Ozil as midfielders who are ready to start week in and week out in the league. Of those four, it’s fair to say that only Xhaka and Ceballos are good enough to play consistently.
Arsenal desperately need creativity from the midfield. Arteta has said that Arsenal can’t dominate the middle of the park for a full game in a 3-4-3 system. This is true, which is why the Spaniard wants to switch to a 4-3-3 formation some time in the future. The problem is, Arsenal’s midfielders aren’t creative enough to make such a switch successfully.
While the arrival of Willian will help this problem, it’s still a major issue; only Ceballos and Ozil have the potential to create chances from the centre of the park. Also, It's worth noting that Ozil seems to be completely out of Arteta's plans and Ceballos is far from an out and out creator. Someone in that area is an absolute must. That’s where Aouar comes in. While the Frenchman isn’t an out-and-out creator, he would definitely help Arsenal’s creativity predicament really well. What he excels in is ball progression, with 3.5 dribbles per 90 across Ligue 1 and the Champions League last season. This, coupled with his ability to find and exploit space, makes him particularly dangerous.
Aouar isn’t just a dribble merchant, however. The 22-year-old makes an impressively penetrative 2.94 progressive runs per game. This proves that he likes to drive towards the opposition goal as soon as he receives the ball. Unfortunately, 58% of the runs made result in Lyon losing the ball. The fact remains, Aouar just isn’t creative enough in the final third, with only 0.14 xA per 90 minutes. Said stat proves that he alone is not the answer to Arsenal’s creative struggles. Despite this though, the Frenchman is an expert dribbler, ball progressor and would be a brilliant addition to the squad. Aouar would be an excellent addition but it is worth noting that he, alone would not solve our creative crisis. Supporters should manage expectations if the midfielder from Lyon is purchased, it's arguable that no, one player would fix our lack of creativity, not even Aouar.
Thomas Partey, on the other hand, isn’t a creator. What he is however, is a player who can do a bit of everything in the midfield. The Ghanaian always attempts to get the ball forward, with 19.41 forward passes per 90. This goes along with 10.91 passes per 90 in the final third and an additional 10.46 progressive passes per 90 in the area. Partey is not just a stat-padded midfielder either. He is someone who resoundingly passes the eye test, as well as its stat-based counterpart.
As a defensive midfielder, Partey also manages to cover, as well as find, pockets of space. This allows him to have a good view of what is happening in the game. From there, the 27-year-old is then able to make a decision on how to move the ball up the pitch. He can either progress it with a pass, act as a ball carrier, or move the ball forward himself, as shown in the images below. This means he is crucial to the way Atletico Madrid attack. Despite what many believe, the Ghanaian midfielder is far more than a traditional defensive mid.
Partey’s biggest strength is that he can complement Granit Xhaka excellently. While the Swiss international is instrumental to the way Arsenal play, he simply isn’t mobile enough to cover enough ground to be a fully-fledged defensive midfielder. This is where Partey comes in, with the Ghanaian being able to cover the ground that Xhaka cannot. This proves that the number five, who currently plays his trade with Los Colchoneros’ would be an excellent acquisition for the club. After analysing both players, it’s very fair to say that Partey and Aouar would definitely improve Arsenal if the rumored transfers were to come to fruition. The arrivals of either one of these two would allow Arteta to move to a 4-3-3, which would allow Arsenal the opportunity to dominate the midfield in games. Make no mistake, the signings of Partey and Aouar would turn Arsenal into a serious top-four contender.