Thomas Partey Makes Arsenal Tick
By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)
As a football fan, I’ve never been someone who enjoys macro-analysing refereeing performances. I of course have my own views on VAR, refereeing decisions etc. but it’s not something that fascinates me. After days of necessary, but also repetitive discussion regarding referees, it feels good to be sitting down and writing about actual football again. Nevertheless, after being so consumed by the furore that followed David Luiz’s red card against Wolves, I found myself struggling to find something to write about today. So, I decided I’d write about the player who impressed me most prior to the farcical decision that changed Tuesday’s game. Thomas Partey. Partey was nothing short of imperious in midfield in the first half against Wolves. His range of passing was fantastic, his tactical nous was clear for all to see and his physical presence in our midfield can never be ignored. Very few midfielders in the world can single handedly take a team up a level. Thomas Partey does that. His recent outings have made the decision to trigger his £45 million release clause at Atletico Madrid all the more understandable. Partey offers so much more than what you would expect from a holding midfielder.
His decision making is a fundamental aspect of Partey’s game which makes him stand out. Andrew Mangan, AKA Arseblog, referred to the midfielder as a “Spike in Arsenal’s horseshoe” in Wednesday’s Arsecast Extra – the perfect description. So many players in this Arsenal team are predictable, one side to the other, backwards passing, recycling the ball, forming the horseshoe shape Arseblog refers to. Partey breaks that trend. The 27-year-old is constantly looking to play that pass that will make something happen. The chance he created for Bukayo Saka in the first minute at Molineux springs to mind. Partey could’ve just shifted the ball wide to Hector Bellerìn, but he instead launched a beautiful pass over the top to create a golden chance for Saka. It wasn’t the first time Partey has attempted to play that pass in an Arsenal shirt and it certainly won’t be the last. That ability to play the direct pass is a remnant of the skills Partey developed with Diego Simeone at Atletico Madird. Atletico have never been a team who enjoy dominating possession. For them, the key is to make the most of the ball whilst they have it. Thus, it was crucial for Partey to have that game-changing ball in his locker under Simeone.
The fact that attribute has stuck with him was evident also against Newcastle in the Premier League when Partey grabbed his first Arsenal assist. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang latched onto a simple, direct and effective Partey ball which left Steve Bruce’s defence unable to get anywhere near Arsenal’s captain. Another aspect of Partey’s Atletico qualities that has stuck with him is his defensive wisdom. The way he unceremoniously brought down the onrushing Adama Traoré in the first half was just fantastic. The tactical foul is hugely important in a Pep Guardiola-esque team so Mikel Arteta will be delighted that he’s brought in an expert in that field in Partey. As for the Ghana international’s ability to seamlessly beat a man, what’s there to be said? The comparison is a little lazy, but no defensively oriented midfielder has been able to glide past players as well as Partey can since Patrick Vieira left the club. Granit Xhaka has been brilliant lately, but the contrast between the Swiss international and Partey in terms of mobility is stark. It’s part of the reason why the former Atletico man compliments Xhaka’s game so well.
If you couldn’t tell already, I am quite simply in awe of Thomas Partey. We are so, so lucky to have him.