Analysis: Who would Be Thomas Partey’s Ideal Midfield Partner at Arsenal?

Thomas Partey’s Ideal Midfield Partner by AI

The rumours have become a solid pileup. The links are growing closer to home: Thomas Partey might possibly be coming to Arsenal. In the fantastic scenario that Arsenal will line up with the Ghanaian midfielder next season, who might be choosen by Mikel Arteta as his ideal midfield partner?

Considering that Mikel Arteta might very well switch to a 4-3-3 next season and is a very fluid coach so far, no options are out of the question. Let’s start with the most obvious one.
Granit Xhaka.

The Swiss midfielder had quite a rough start to the season. But since Mikel Arteta came in, he has hit something of a purple patch. Everyone knows what Granit Xhaka is about by now. Setting the tempo. Distributing the ball. Switching play. Covering for the defence. He has basically been the heart of the Arsenal midfield for three seasons now.

One of the weird things about Granit Xhaka is how people identify him as a defensive midfielder. Probably due to a strong desire for an athletic tackler in the middle from Arsenal fans plus confusion about his deep midfield role, he has been fashioned by many as Arsenal’s DM which he is not.

Xhaka is a deep-lying central midfielder. His main job is to organize play and set up the tempo for the team. Everything Arsenal do on the ball is supposed to run through him. Jorginho, Rodri, Ruben Neves, Toni Kroos, Thiago Alcantara are examples. None of them have all the defensive responsibility when they lose the ball. They share it with other midfielders.

Thomas Partey is more defensively responsible than Xhaka while being more mobile and more technical in possession. Where Xhaka lacks bite, Partey possesses it in abundance. Partey, being an able passer of the ball himself, could very well complement the Swiss controller. Think of the Torreira-Xhaka pivot but better.

Lucas Torreira
The Uruguayan is unquestionably talented. Energetic scrapper, tidy passer, and able to penetrate into the penalty box with late runs, Lucas Torreira could function as a box-to-box midfielder or a full defensive one.

The problem with him being a box-to-box midfielder is that the Arsenal midfield is not quite set up to maximize the functionality. They would need Torreira to slightly better his offensive game in order to play a DM and an AM alongside him or they will have to buy an attacking box-to-box midfielder like Abdoulayi Duocore or Federico Valverde to complete the midfield with a DM like Partey.

The problem with the 23-year-old being a defensive midfielder is that he lacks physical presence. Despite being tenacious and quite gifted at winning the ball, Lucas Torreira won’t win you many headers, neither will he consistently overpower an opponent attacking midfielder through sheer physicality. One would suspect that a coach like Arteta who has trained under Guardiola — partly famed for his tall defensive anchors a la Sergio Busquets — would really prefer someone who can win headers and check an opponent’s run without having to put a foot in.

Pairing Thomas Partey with Torreira seems a bit redundant, as both would, in combination, not give Arsenal a technical advantage when it comes to passing.

Dani Ceballos.
Like Granit Xhaka, people are confused about Ceballos’ true position. Is he an advanced playmaker or better suited as a central midfielder. Here are a few things the Spaniard can do really well: dribbling, passing, winning fouls in possession. Sounds like David Silva or Thiago Alcantara?

Arteta thinks it’s the latter. And he has been largely vindicated by Ceballos’ performances in a deeper midfield position. Turns out that the fragile looking Spaniard can put in a strong tackle in the 89th minute.

Imagine a Partey and Ceballos midfield. Partey would be tasked with more defensive responsibilities. While Ceballos will become the heartbeat of the midfield, all silky dribbling and no-look vertical passing, like a certain Santi Cazorla.

One remarkable thing Ceballos can also do is his progressing the ball by dribbling up from the deeper areas of the pitch. That is what could make him potentially elite, potentially closer to a Xavi or Thiago than, say, Jorginho who lacks that ball-carrying skill. Throw in his ability to significantly provide assists and goals and you are relieving the creative burden off someone like Mesut Ozil as well.

This is why Ceballos is so desirable. His potential to become something like our dear Santi.
A pairing of him, Partey and an attacking midfielder would be perfect. CM-DM-AM. His qualities make him the best partner to someone like Thomas Partey or maybe a Granit Xhaka.

Matteo Guendouzi
Our lanky French prodigy is also suffering from a positional crisis. Where is Guendouzi’s best position?

Definitely not as an attacking midfielder. As a defensive midfielder, he will have to develop his positioning to a much better level. If he can do that, then he may be potentially world-class, with his extraordinary passing and ability to dictate play. He would also have to improve his heading before that can happen as well.
What about as a CM? He has the passing, the energy, the astuteness. What lets him down here, also, is his positioning. Otherwise, on his day, as we have already seen several times this season and the last, the talented youngster can single-handedly own the entire midfield.
A partnership between him and Partey might actually benefit the Frenchman. Partey would mop up his positioning mistakes and allow him to run the game. Partey’s quiet composure and Guendouzi’s cocky brashness could also be the perfect midfield alloy.

This is still all conjecture yet. No one knows if Thomas Partey is coming. Even if he did it probably means a midfielder already here will be sold. Nobody knows for sure right now and maybe not even the player himself. The Partey-Ceballos midfield partnership is ideal from a tactical perspective. It would make for steel and style. In such an arrangement, Guendouzi could deputize for Ceballos and Torreira for Partey. Otherwise the Xhaka-Partey pivot would be great, containing enough experience to never get overwhelmed.

If we want to go on developing Guendouzi until he reaches the plateau of his potential, Partey-Guendouzi is the way to go. Everything ultimately depends on what happens in the transfer window. Ceballos could yet be an Arsenal player or not. Thomas Partey may sign a new contract at Atletico Madrid. Mikel Arteta may be envisioning other plans for the midfield that we, the fans, may not see just yet. Whatever case it is, we will need new midfielders when football resumes and Thomas Partey is one of the best we can get.

Agboola Israel


  1. Please, can’t you wait until we know if we get him? All true Asn’l fans want Thomas Partey, but it’s still a long way to go.

    1. An interesting , well presented article Agboola.I very much doubt if we will be successful in securing Partey unless Laca zette is perhaps used as part of the deal, but if we are, it would represent a major change in that we would at long last have a top quality DM which we have lacked for some time..With Partey on board , it would give Arteta the opportunity to switch to his preferred 4-3-3 system, a system for which Xhaka is clearly not suited as he does not have the pace ,mobility or energy to perform as a box to box midfielder.If Xhaka is part of our Manager’s plans for the future then we will be restricted to a 4-2-3-1 system which has not proved to be successful for a number of seasons.If we were able to move on Xhaka, it would give us greater flexibility in the middle of the park where we have been lacking for some time.

      1. With Granit Xhaka on the pitch, Asn’l is playing with ten men. And as long as we are playing with ten men, we will not be able to win a title. It would be a major mistake from senior Arteta to keep Xhaka after the summer, a mistake hard to understand. Sell Granit Xhaka. The sooner the better.

  2. Partey Guendozi for me because I really want him to come on next year and he needs game time. Partey is the perfect partner to let him show his strengths

  3. Nice! This is what I have been saying. Give is great contents. This is by far the best article on this site in months. Good analysis, depth, quality and delivery.

  4. PT and willock with ESR as a CAM. PT can be our new viera who was complete in the midfield and could do it all.

  5. As much as the rumors indicate the opposite, I cannot honestly see this happening. We are apparently skint, big cost transfers are a thing of the past and no one has a realistic clue if and when football will start again in England. Perhaps a swap deal but certainly not big money when we are paying off for Pepe over the next few years and likely the TV companies want £millions refunded.

  6. A nice article 🙄
    I dont want MA to move to a 433
    I actually like 4231,first of all because its an attacking lineup and offers more attacking option than 433.

    And about Partey,he is a superb player and about who his partner will be(if he comes) is a headache for everyone.
    I prefer partey-ceballos one if ceballos is to stay

  7. I guess when Bayern or top club snatch them, they will be good enough as Wenger saw them.

    Once you have Partey, you can paur any of them.

    Just as getting Koulibaly, can pair any CB with him

  8. Well written article but sadly based on a most unlikely happening. That alon erenders it almost cdertainly meaningless, even though it was well written. Bottom line is always though”willit hapen”? Almost 100% unlikely.

    Shame to waste such writing talent on such a remote possibility. Perhaps Agboola, you might to use your undoubted writing talents on something more relevant and likely, such as the current “will we or won’t we resume soon” debate. Just trying to help a man who has something to say to find the right subject to say it about!

    1. There is no need to debate on that subject any more as no one can be right . Let it go

  9. Good point Mogunna.AMN and Willock should not be overlooked.The have the pace and energy to operate as box to box exponents, and I would like to see them operating in tandem in midfield.Whether they have the Football intelligence or the decision making ability to be successful is debatable but I hope Arteta does not cast them aside and gives them an opportunity together.

  10. Well written Agboola Xhaka must be moved on he is too slow for Arsenal’s play it takes him ages to think what to do next when he has the ball not good for the Arsenal style of play

  11. Niles will go on loan this season
    If Thomas comes to Arsenal his partner will be Xhaka and that’s the hard truth. Funny thing is you all know it and if Aubameyang leaves Xhaka will be our captain again # realitycheck.
    And if you doubt me just go and read the managers comment on Xhaka.

    1. Sell Granit Xhaka. Or if no one want to pay for him, give him to charity. Maybe he can be used as a toy boy for some old blue haired american heir. He’s disastrous for Asn’l.

  12. Ibrahim Sangare paired with Partney, Sangare is a mix of defensive mid and box to box, put Kokcu in front who would be the playmaker, this would give us a midfield to challenge most other teams.

    1. This would be a dream pairing! Sangare and Partey both nonstop all action midfielders who have great defensive awareness.

  13. Of course Granit Xhaka is the perfect partner as he is good at passing and playing attacking foot ball

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