Transfer Tuesday again! Every now and then in life, you get such a gift as a man who comes along with as journalistically friendly a name as Partey (Partey time was left on the cutting room floor). A name that when coupled with constant media buzz necessitates a little write-up.
Indeed, this is a piece that has been considered for quite some time. There feels like no better time than now, given that in the last few days I’ve been surprised to see that this transfer has created more friction than I expected. A growing group of Arsenal fans appear reluctant to see the club splash out on a 27-year-old, citing a fear of a lack of resale value.
To that, I say that this is not something to be worried about when discussing a player in the style of Partey. Whilst a club does not want to get stuck with too many players who they feel cannot be moved on, this should not be the approach all the time. First and foremost, the oft-held idea that once a player hits 30 the wheels come off really could do with going away a bit. In the modern game, we are seeing players extend their prime for longer and longer, namely holding midfielders.
Furthermore, the position of holding midfielder is not one where there is such a wealth of riches that a team can rely on plucking one out aged 22. To get one of the best, the best approach is to buy one of the best. Maybe I’m wrong, but I truly believe that Partey is good enough to warrant the buy.
An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove
Focusing first on Partey’s own skills, you must immediately discard any fears of him being a player whose ball-winning is outweighed by poor ball handling. Watching Partey very quickly reveals that he knows exactly what to do in possession. More exciting is the fact that Partey very much looks forward in his pass selection. Every fan fears the crab-like sideways passes. Yet, there is no sloppiness in doing this, with Partey averaging a pass completion of over 80% in the league for the last five seasons.
Taking this comfortable nature on the ball, it cannot be understated the effect that Partey has off of it. He is the very definition of an all-action midfielder, and is so well-versed in his defensive skills that he can even do an ample job slotting in at right back. Arsenal fans should remember this from their home game against Atletico in the 2017/18 Europa League semi-final. Partey played 80 mins there after Vrsaljko saw red within 10 minutes. I, for one, remember that as a night where a small part of me died every single time Oblak made a save, but hey ho I’m sure it won’t scar me forever.
It Takes Two
Like all good things, midfielders love to come in twos. I’m sure everyone will have a different take on who best to partner Partey, but my vote goes to…
A divisive figure in his own right, but one I have long been partial to. Whether it be his probing long passes from his first season, his newfound ability at covering left-back, or his constant big game performances, I really do think Xhaka can bring so much to a team. Admittedly, this may not have always shone through under Unai Emery’s cursed tenure, but I think a large part of that fell down to a player being asked to do too many things. Under Arteta, Xhaka has a clear remit and knows his own limits on the pitch.
In relation to Partey, Xhaka offers a strong foil. A left-footer to Partey’s right, the two make a natural pairing. Similarly, both have the passing ability to give the defence two choices for outlet as opposed to one. The overall effect of this should be an improvement to ball progression for Arsenal. A recurring problem for Arsenal has been that the ball gets stuck somewhere around the halfway line, Mesut Özil drops deep to help, but the result is that no one is in the position where he should be to receive. In having two competent passers from deep, the forwards should be able to hold their positions and receive the ball more quickly, smoothening out an often-laboured process.
A Signal of Change
A final possibility is that this move may be the catalyst for Arteta making a change to playing three central midfielders as opposed to two. Partey can both anchor a midfield three and play on the right side of one. With this, comes the ability to make a change of formation. Looking to the future, Arsenal may make the transition that many teams have made to having a third CM replace the traditional No.10. Mesut Özil is likely coming to the end of both his contract and career, and there exist few like-for-like options for replacement. More likely is that he gets replaced by an attacking CM, similar to the role played by Jack Grealish for Aston Villa this season.
Signing Partey offers the option to make this transition a reality. On paper, the idea of Partey holding down a midfield with Xhaka (the controller) and a new CM (the forward man) either side of him is incredibly exciting.
Feel free to let us know how you think Partey would fit in at Arsenal down below or on our socials!
Photo Credit: Анна Джалалян / CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL