Tag Archives: thomas partey

Tielemans not the central man Arsenal need

Arsenal need midfield reinforcements, and we should be making a move in January.

We need to improve on Mohamed Elneny as Thomas Partey’s cover.

The Egyptian is a solid player, and the one-year extension was the right move.

That decision has allowed Edu and his team to clear their heads as to what exactly we need.

Last summer we might have considered the incoming man being a Partey replacement, co side ring his injury record. But with the Ghanaian’s form (and fitness) this year, replacing him is not on the agenda.

That means we should now be looking for someone who can cover him in the short term, and replace him in the long.

Partey is the best in the world plying as that single pivot defensive midfielder, so it does not make sense for us to get in another big name in this area (no Declan Rice).

Likewise, get the likes of Youri Tielemans and Sergej Milinković-Savić out of your mouths. Neither are defensive midfielders or can play that Partey role.

Tielemans has played deeper this season, but he is not a defensive midfielder.

For Leicester, he plays as the slightly more advanced of a two-man midfield; with either Boubakary Soumaré or Wilfred Ndidi as the deeper defensive cover.

Tielemans on his own as that single defensive midfielder would be a disaster. He neither has the awareness or stamina to do that job.

As for Milinkovic-Savic, he always comes across as a player that everyone raves about but have never seen.

People look at his size, stature and nationality and immediately think “midfield enforcer”. Paul Pogba is similar – the Frenchman often mislabelled as a defensive midfielder due to being big and black, when he has almost always played further forward. The Serbian has never played defensive midfield for Lazio.

If we were talking about replacing Granit Xhaka, then Tielemans and Milinkovic-Savic would be names to mention. But we are talking about getting in cover for Partey. Neither are suitable.

What we need to be looking for is a young, talented defensive midfielder who we can develop over the next 2-3 season to eventually replace Partey full-time. Basically succession management.

We should be looking at players aged 20-22. Players that would see joining Arsenal to be understudy to Partey as a step up from playing regular football at their current clubs.

They would understand that they would see plenty of game time as they continue their development, and as long as they work hard and keep improving, they will be in pole position to replace the Ghanaian in 2-years time.

The two obvious candidates are Palmeiras’ Danilo and Moises Caciedo of Brighton.

Danilo would be the cheapest of the pair – fee rumoured to be around £20-25m. Caciedo, with his Premier League experience, would cost double that.

The Brazilian would be available in January, the current Brasileiro Série A season finished in November. Brighton, meanwhile, would unlikely want to see Caciedo leave until the summer.

With the above considered, Danilo is a realistic January transfer target.

Whether he (or Caciedo) develop into Partey’s replacement is still to be seen.

They will have 2-3 years to prove they can do that job. And if they fail to progress, expect Arsenal to sign an off-the-shelf replacement for him in around 2025 or 2026.

For now, we can take the risk on a young, exciting talent.

We don’t need to replace Partey yet. Just sign some better cover and competition.


Thomas Partey – Arsenal’s One Man Midfield

I watched a lot of Thomas Partey when he was at Atletico Madrid.

He always came across as a Patrick Vieira type midfielder.

Whilst he could be classed as a defensive midfielder, he was much more than that. He was at his best when he was free to let his presence be known across the pitch, using his power and fitness to press and win the ball.

To do so he needed a static midfielder in behind him. Someone who was defensively disciplined and would remain in place when Partey went hunting for the ball.

It is for that reason I did not see Partey as a replacement for Granit Xhaka but a partner.

In my mind it was simple.

Partey would press high up the pitch whilst Xhaka sat. He would drive forward with the ball at his feet whilst Xhaka dictated play from deeper with his passing.

It would be reminiscent to the Petit / Vieira days.

Jorginho and N’Golo Kante is perhaps a more modern example at Chelsea.

Against Burnley, Partey played as the deepest midfielder – with Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard further forward. And it was a tactic that worked very well.

Many often question why Arsenal (and others) play 2 defensive minded players against lesser sides.

Chelsea almost always play with Jorginho and Kante. As do Manchester United (usually 2 of Fred, Matic and McTominay). Liverpool often played with 3 in their title winning season (Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum).

Likewise Man City look their most balanced when both Ilkay Gundogan and Ferdandinho play together.

Mikel Arteta took the risk and played with just Partey which allowed him to get more creativity on the pitch.

When Burnley were on the ball, Partey would drop into the back 4 creating 3 centre backs.

This a tactic allowed Ben White and Gabriel to man mark Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. Partey then became the arial attacker when the ball went high.

Capable of dropping into the defence and attacking the high ball. It worked brilliant.

Partey showed in the game that he can perform as the deepest of the midfielders. That he had the positional discipline not to leave the defence exposed.

The only thing to raise is it was Burnley.

Arteta was able to do this due to Burnley playing a traditional 442.

They had no attacking midfielder occupying the space between Arsenal’s defence and midfield; and their own two midfielders were pre occupied with Odegaard and Smith Rowe.

This almost always left Partey as a free man.

Against sides that play with an attacking midfielder, or a striker that drops deeper, Arsenal might find themselves quickly over run in midfield.

Against someone like Chelsea, Partey wild be occupied with Kai Havertz. That would then always leave Mason Mount free.

Liverpool would drop Firmino deeper which would then free up Thiago to dictate the midfield.

Even lesser teams like Leicester City would stick James Maddison on Partey freeing up Youri Tielemans.

It is a tactic that worked against Burnley because of the way Burnley set up.

But what Partey showed is that he can play as the deeper of the midfielders. And what that means moving forward is that Arteta can play one of Albert-Sambi Lokonga or Ainsley Maitland-Niles alongside him; rather than Granit Xhaka.

I am not naive enough to say things like “Partey has just ended Xhaka’s career” but it is now quiet clearly “Partey + 1 depending on the opponent” rather than “Partey & Xhaka”.

Now we just need to hope Partey stays fit.


Arsenal new boys “best signings in years”

Over the summer criticism of Edu creeped in as the transfer window rolled on.

The criticism was not unfounded, as Arsenal publicly struggled in their pursuit of Houssem Aouar and only completed the signing of Thomas Partey on the last day of the season.

But praise actually needs to be given for the transfer business we did over the summer. Especially with the recruitment of Thomas Partey and Gabriel.

Arsenal signed Brazilian centre back Gabriel on September 1st for a fee in the region of £24million.

He came with a good reputation in France, having impressed for Lille last season.

But there were questions marks.

Prior to 2019/20, he had a couple of uninspiring loan deals at Troyes before joining Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, where he made just one league appearance for each club’s senior team.

His statistics, however, held up well.

Whether it was aerial duels, ground duels or passing, he was producing better statistics than anyone at Arsenal. Although this came with the caveat that he was playing in France.

He has taken to English football like a duck to water and should already be considered one of the best central defenders in the league.

When you consider Manchester City and Manchester United have spent so much on central defenders in recent years, and Chelsea had to settle on vetran Thiago Silva, Gabriel feels like a real coup.

Virgil van Dijk aside, it is a struggle to name a better central defender in the league than Gabriel. And at 22 (and with van Dijk out for a year), Gabriel will quickly establish himself as the best in the league.

Thomas Partey was signed on the last day of the transfer window.

We have only seen him for 90 minutes in the Europa League, but he confirmed what we already know about him – that he is a beat of a central midfielder.

A few people expected Partey to replace Granit Xhaka as the midfield anchor. But this would result in Partey losing 50% of his influence.

Just because you are a defensive midfielder, does not mean that your job is to sit in front of the defence.

Take Patrick Vieira for example.

One of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the game, he always played with someone behind him – Emmanuel Petit or Gilberto for Arsenal and Didier Deschamps for France.

That allowed Vieira to press forward, to bully players across the park. If he was the anchor, he would have to be more statics. Cleaning up rather than dominating.

Partey is in a similar mould.

You want the Ghanaian to have the freedom to press opponents regardless of where they are on the pitch.

Against Rapid Wein we saw this.

He would push forward, bullying players, with Mo Elneny playing behind him providing that cover.

Partey’s game is ready made for the Premier League.

In Partey and Gabriel Arsenal have made two big signings. Two players that we have missed for a decade.

A dominant central defender and an equally dominant central midfielder.

They are the men Edu now needs to build the team around for the next 5 years.

We might have finished the transfer window not adding the creativity we craved, but through Edu’s recruitment and Mikel Arteta’s coaching, we now look more defensively solid.

Once a manager has built that solid foundation, he will transition into a more attacking style of play.

Partey and Gabriel are Arsenal’s best signings in years.

We are looking good.