In the last couple of weeks, I have seen plenty of chatter about Declan Rice to Arsenal. The majority seems to be fan driven who are calling for Edu to make the Englishman our number one transfer target.
Declan Rice should not be a player Arsenal are targeting. and there is a big reason. Thomas Teye Partey.
The Partey is not over
Fans seem to be very quick to write off Thomas Partey’s Arsenal career, following a period where the Ghanaian has struggled with injury.
Since joining the club in 2020, hje has missed 39 games through injury. A huge chunk in a season and a half.
Injuries have also hit during the crucial run-in of the last 2 seasons, with many pointing to his absences as the reason why we failed to get European football in 2021/22 and missed out on Champions League football at the end of 22/23.
This was not blaming Partey, but more pointing out that we needed quality cover, and potentially a replacement. Many fans sit on that second fence and view Declan Rice as a man to replace Partey.
This season, Partey has largely mainted his fitness – helped in part by his mid-week game time being managed. And he is a key reason why we are top of the league.
We win 62% of our Premier League games when Partey starts. That drops down to 42% of games when he does not.
It is clear and obvious that Partey is our most important player. And in my opinion he is the best in the world at what he does – the single pivot defensive midfielder.
No one comes close in terms of positioning, awareness, strength, power and ability on the ball when playing as the lone defensive midfielder. Rice is good, but not yet that good.
Partey is also just 29-years-old, so lets not start writing off his Arsenal career yet!
Can not accomodate both
It would make little to know sense to sign Rice whilst Partey is still at the club.
You would expect West Ham to command a fee close to £100million for their captain. It makes no sense for Arsenal to spend that, only to then put him into a job share arrangement.
We also do not play with 2 defensive midfielders. Partey plays deep, with Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard ahead.
This midfield make-up is a key reason we are top of the league.
I can not see Arteta returning to 2 defensive midfielders, sacrificng Xhaka for Rice.
Rice is also not an “8”, so he would not be a replacement for Xhaka in that more advanced position – and if we have £100m to spend we would be better looking at Jude Bellingham to replace Xhaka (or just snap up Youri Tielemans on a free!).
Reality is, Rice and Partey in the same squad makes no sense.
Partey is the better player, but Rice suffers less injuries. I would prefer we play the better player.
Better to buy younger
What we should be doing is looking to buy a younger, cheaper pretender that can be cover for Partey, and be a long term replacement. This solution solves all of the above.
We have been linked with the likes of Moises Caicedo and Danilo of Palmeiras over the last few months. They would make better options than Rice.
You could easily accomodate Partey and one of the above, with both men good enough to come in for the 33% of games Partey is out.
Both men would be a fraction of what Rice costs, and have a huge ceiling.
That would allow us to continue managing Partey’s game time – ensuring he is fit and available for the toughest, biggest, most important games.
As discussed, you can not really have a squad containing Rice and Partey. So even if you signed Rice, you would still need to look at getting in a 2nd player in that position.
Given the choice between Partey and Rice, I would go for Partey every day of the week.
Do not expect Declan Rice to be joining Arsenal any time soon.