Thomas Partey signing would exemplify clear lack of direction from top to bottom
By Daniel Finton
Arsenal have recently been heavily linked with Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey. Various outlets have stated that the gunners are keen to splash the cash and trigger the Ghanaian international’s release clause, which is said to be around £46 million.
There is a relatively common belief within the club that Mikel Arteta is in need of midfield reinforcements, especially on the defensive side of the middle of the park. At the moment the Uruguayan, Lucas Torreira, is the only recognised out and out defensive midfielder (or number 4/6 if you will) at the club.
Torreira being the only natural defensive midfielder means Arteta is forced to rest the former Sampdoria man on a more than ideal basis. When he is rested, we are left with a pivot of either: Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi or Xhaka and Dani Ceballos. Both aforementioned pivots tend to leave us defensively exposed and more prone to counter attacks which a more defensively savvy player would prevent. For this reason, I understand the links to Atletico’s Partey. His ability to break up play and nip attacks in the bud is more than impressive, although I am left wondering if the links to the tenacious African are indicative of the complete lack of direction in which we make transactions.
Arteta has stated that he aspires to be an ‘attacking side’. Like Unai Emery claimed, Arteta actually prefers to be the protagonist that dictates the flow and possession of any given fixture. A signing like Partey would not fit into the protagonistic style in which Areta is trying to implement whatsoever. Diego Simeone’s Atletico have an average rate of about 48% possession this season, while the misfiring and underperforming gunners have an average of 54% according to whoscored.com.
Whilst the gap seems small, when one watches Simeone’s men on a frequent basis, it is easy to tell that they are a side that prefers to beat teams in a counter attacking system, surrendering possession to the opposition. On the contrary, the “Arsenal way” is essentially defined as the complete opposite. Dictating possession and establishing ourselves as a dominant force is supposedly the philosophy the former Manchester city number two believes in.
The 26-year-old, Partey, has been a part Atletico's tactical infrastructure since 2012. The Spanish club picked him up from the Ghanaian side, Odometah FC, when he was just 18-years of age. He has spent essentially all of his professional career with Atletico under Simeone’s jurisdiction. In the last 8-years, the only time away from his long-time manager Partey has had was during loan spells with Mallorca and Almeria in 2013 through 2015. It is in Partey’s DNA to play as the antagonist and I’m not so sure that is what the Arsenal midfield are in want of at the present moment.
Partey has received 10 yellow cards this season and scored two goals. The Atletico side that he generals the midfield of sits in an underwhelming 5th place, 12 points off of local rivals and league leaders Real Madrid. Partey would bring an admirable element of villainy to the Emirates if a move to London was to come to fruition. Notwithstanding, I still have my reservations over whether or not investing so heavily on a player who's torn from the polar opposite cloth from which we aspire to tear from, is the most intelligent of transactions given our once again, reported, financial shortcomings.
A player like Wilfred Ndidi from Leicester City who, similarly to Arsenal, have 54% possession on average this season, would cost far more, but would be better suited to the Arteta way of play which we’re longing for. In addition to the Nigerian knowing how to play as a protagonist, he also possesses an abundance of Premier league experience, with over 100 appearances compiled with the fact that he is three-years younger.
In closing, we do need defensive midfield reinforcements, along with a host of other additions as well. Partey has been the only name mentioned in regards to the defensive midfield department thus far.
While it is impossible to disagree with the fact that Partey is a top class player, acquiring his signature would be yet another example of the board shoving a square peg into a round hole. We need reinforcements, and furthermore, ones that follow a blueprint of sorts that take us to where we want to go. If an attacking, possession oriented style of football is what is preferred by Arteta in the quest to qualify for the Champions league again, Partey is not the right man to invest in.