The importance of Thomas Partey to Arsenal cannot be ignored

The understated importance of Thomas Partey to this Arsenal side cannot continue to be ignored by Jimmy Grain

Mohamed Elneny’s new contract was announced last week and I’m pleased that, by all accounts, a great guy and solid player will be with us again next season. We will need to ensure that we have depth when returning to the relentless grind of Europa League football and he is a dependable player who will help in managing Thomas Partey’s minutes whilst we look to minimise the risk of further injury.

Elneny will receive a one-year deal with an option of a further year. That is a sensible length of time as there may not be a place for him in the squad in 2023. The deal also makes financial sense, given that he is the most followed Arsenal player on social media by quite some way and brings some commercial value in the football-mad Egypt.

The significant drop in quality from our only other true defensive midfielder though, does worry me. Partey was sorely missed during our 3-0 drubbing against Spurs and Elneny was a far cry from the magisterial performances that Thomas has put in against some of the top sides of our league.

Partey shields the defence well with his good positioning and physical presence. He’s also integral to our build up, relieves pressure with his elite receiving of the ball and creates attacks with a fantastic dribbling ability and quality passing range. This summer’s central midfield signing must alleviate the worries around Partey’s fitness.

Whether we purchase a more defensive or more offensive midfielder all comes down to how flexible Mikel Arteta is willing to be tactically. Thus far, he has tinkered with 5 at the back and the 4231 formation but we’ve looked at our strongest in a 433 with Partey at the base of midfield. I think that that’s the formation that Arteta favours in an ideal world.

Granit Xhaka is a good player and an important leader for us, but he does not have the defensive nous or discipline to play as a six. Thus, we either need to sign someone who can play at the base of midfield or someone with enough quality defensive attributes to make us solid enough in a double pivot featuring Xhaka.

Yves Bissouma and Kalvin Phillips are players that I believe could play either side of a midfield three when Partey’s fit, or as the holding midfielder when he’s not. Phillips would be my preference. We’ve been heavily linked with Youri Tielemans but signing him would leave us with only Elneny and Maitland-Niles, (whose future is unclear), as our reserve DM’s. This means that we’ll probably have to play a two-man midfield when Partey’s not available.

I would be concerned with the defensive security of our side with a Xhaka and Tielemans double pivot. Likewise, I would be worried about our build up if either of them were paired with Mohamed Elneny. Tielemans is a player with undeniable quality, but I think that we need to prioritise more defensive security and with Smith Rowe likely to move into midfield following the purchase of another winger, we have enough attacking midfielders for the time being.

It will be interesting to see what route Arteta goes down. I am glad that Thomas has become such an integral player to our side after a wobbly start but it’s high time that we made sure we aren’t so reliant on him. We can’t be going into massive games like the North London derby with such a weakened midfield. That simply can’t happen again.


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  1. Yes it cant be denied he is important. But at the same time with the amount of time he has spent on the treatment table, and the wages he is on, he seems no better than a more expensive Diaby. IMO we have to examine the formations and tactics this season and critically explore the possibility of another midfielder being slowly phased in and TP being put out for sale. We might have missed a trick with Kamara but same as people telling to sign Soumare but he hardly had an impact at Leicester we cant really judge whether we really missed a trick or dodged a bullet.
    So maybe its better to really look in the direction of youth or even PL experience to fill in the DM slot and slowly phase out our luxurious Diaby? Because honestly his very impressive performances have been sprinkled between a pile of absences and mediocre performances.

    1. Yeah. He is currently our best CDM, but we can’t rely on injury-prone players like Tierney and him

      The CDM and CF positions are the spine in 4-3-3 formation, so we need a CDM with tidy first touch and a CF with great hold-up play

  2. Another, rehashed article. Yes, Partey is important but he hasn’t completed a season since he joined. What about next season? Will he remain fit? Has he consistently been the rock like presence holding the Arsenal midfield together. I don’t know about you but I’ve also seen him put in some shambolic performances this season. Who exactly is he passing to? I realise we need him badly to step up because his other two midfield associates are simply not up to the task. They are what we in Australia call “captain’s picks”.

  3. Well he cost 42m quid and is paid 250k a week.
    The real importance is getting this guy on the field and keeping him there. With Xhaka possibly being sold and Lokonga not quite ready Elneny is the safety option who’s presence is aimed at lowering the price of any DM replacement. I would be happy if both Xhaka and Partey were sold for say 50m total and get two DM replacements for say 75m total.

  4. Partey is decent but he is not brilliant by any means. Certain games and moments yes he is unplayable but in general he is good…nothing more.

    The reason he looks phenomenal is because of the dross around him in the midfield. We need a better DM, I hope Partey stays but if we can get someone else it will be very beneficial.

  5. Partey is ultra important. At Athletic Madrid he had excellent midfielders along side him to SHARE the work. At Arsenal he is surrounded by such a rubbish midfield that he was asked to do everything. No wonder he got injured. If Thomas is surrounded by quality players he would be a Force of Nature. To surround him with Xhaka and Elneny is taking the piss.

    1. “At Arsenal he is surrounded by such a rubbish midfield that he was asked to do everything. No wonder he got injured”

      You actually managed to link the 2. Congrates.

      Partey has always been an above average midfielder.. just above average..Even at AM

  6. Thomas Partey is some of the most overrated players at Arsenal.. He is in the Alex Song bracket in terms of talent in my opinion. But because the quality of footballer has been steadily declining for a decade the likes of Partey look like quality.
    Imagine the likes of Diaby, Song etc..

    But Partey is what we have at the moment. Football talent is at its worst in decades..

    My subjective opinion of course.

    1. “Football talent is at its worst in decades..”

      True. Football talent crested with Messi and Ronaldo. Has been on the decline since..

  7. Thomas Partey is not as good as some people think. In fact, he has in underperformed more often than not.A player that cost arsenal 45m pounds and earns 250,000 pounds weekly, has missed 14 premiere league games is not good enough.He is injury prone and should be sold.

  8. He is not important at all according to some on here. Elneny and Lokonga are on the same level apparently!

  9. He is a decent midfielder. We are asking too much of him in Arteta’s formation unfortunately he is surrounded by average midfielders, so no creativity. We need midfielders that are mobile and creative. Unfortunately Xhaka and Elneny cannot provide that.

  10. I dont understand how people think he is overrated. When he arrived, I didnt think very highly of him because he didnt really impress me in the games I saw from him at Atletico bar the game against Liverpool, but he really surprised me

    Very complete midfielder who has the ability to receive the ball under pressure, can dribble out of pressure very well and has great passing range, linebreaking passes, good tackle and who is also pretty strong. Cant believe people comparing him to Alex Song

    1. I don’t get why Song has such a bad reputation as a player – he was crazy talented, miles better than anyone we have today, including partey. When he was here, we almost always dominated in midfield (often alongside a barely-interested denilson), but we haven’t done that reliably since he left.
      As a player, he was strong, could tackle, pass the ball much better than xhaka and he could dribble effectively in midfield. The questions around his discipline and overall mentality are well-founded (in reality that is why he’s not well remembered), but I’m convinced we would have slipped out of CL years before we eventually did if we hadn’t had him in the team at the time, and in terms of raw footballing ability, he really was top drawer.

      1. For me he hasn’t got a bad reputation. I rated Song, but not as much as you do. He was a very cabable DM. Hij was strong, had a good tackle and had a decent pass. The thing I didn’t like about him, as as soon as he gave that brilliant assist on RvP, he started to believe he was a playmaker capable of giving that killer ball. He started acting like a playmaker and focussed more on attack and started neglecting his defensive duties. This was the moment I started rating him less. Something similar happened to Coquelin, although I think Emery was more at fault for this than Coq by playing him as a B2B and Xhaka as the most defensive mid, but that’s a different discussion.

        But I did rate Song as a defensive midfielder. Partey in my eyes is just more complete and offers so much more in attack with his dribbeling and ability to receive the ball under pressure. Song was better defensively

        1. Yeah I don’t think we’re too far apart on Song tbf – I was never sure if he just started playing further forwards, or if that was what wenger wanted him to do. I do think he was a better dribbler and passer than partey, but TP is strong in those areas as well (esp dribbling/close control), and it’s closer than I made out (maybe my memory or just personal preferences?). In any case, I do think it’s a good comparison (song vs partey) and not negative or unfair on either player.
          On coquelin, that wasn’t my impression – I remember people complaining that he wasn’t creative enough, and him losing his place shortly after (although probably not for that reason). You could well be right, just don’t remember that period so well.

  11. I completely disagre qwith the writer about Elneny. To my mind he is way sub standard if we REALLT intend to make progress . Also about Xhaka whom I have neve rbeen able to stand at all. I desperately want both those ineffective and extremely poor players gone from our club thus summer. It looks though as if both will be here for a while yet and that fills me with gloom.
    How any fan can claim to expect progress AND YET want either or both of these players to stay is mystifying to me!

  12. First and foremost he’s no CDM, as Diaby never was. He should be the creative CM, but with Xhaka around it is impossible. So, after two seasons with us he hasn’t excelled and that leaves him with just another one to prove himself. After that I’d sell him promptly.

    1. He’s not really a creative player (not that xhaka is much better there), his role has been to gain control of the midfield and get the ball to the creative players in areas they can exploit (Saka and Ode). He had a spell during the season where he was extremely effective.

  13. If we can keep partley fit which is a a big if he is a top player and gives us everything we need just needs a big run of games and he will prove his worth!

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