Swapping the shirt number from 18 to 5 isn’t the main change for Thomas Partey.
The biggest change for the Ghana international happened last summer and I’m not referring to his move to Arsenal from Atletico Madrid: the biggest change for him was going from supporting actor to main lead.
Arsenal triggering Thomas Partey’s release clause on the last day of last summer’s transfers window surely infuriated Atletico Madrid but also raised some questions about whether or not it was a smart move from a Club that many believed was in big financial troubles.
The Ghanean being already 27 years old, investing such a big sum in fees and wages is quite a risk because, if it doesn’t pay off, the player has little to no resale value.
Although I’m not very interested in these figures, I understand why many people were concerned and I see why Thomas Partey wasn’t seen as the guy who could transform Arsenal midfield.
I believe that most of these doubts came from a misunderstanding of Thomas Partey’s profile as a midfielder, surely generated by the way Diego Simeone used to deploy him: at Atletico Madrid, Thomas Partey was mainly the defensive midfielder charged to win the ball back and push it forward to his skilled, elegant teammates. That’s it. Win the ball. Pass the ball. Repeat.
Why would you pay £ 45m plus wages for another Francis Coquelin? I see why many were skeptical.
Fact is that Thomas Partey is much more than a defensive midfielder and, as much as he didn’t show it consistently enough, he is the guy who transforms our midfield and propels us into modernity.
There is so much more about his game than athleticism that very few were aware of his ability to beat the press, carry the ball and find his team-mates with incisive, sharp passes through the lines.
As you can see below, his first instinct is to receive the ball on the turn, beat the first line of pressure and move forward on the pitch, as opposed to Granit Xhaka, who would pass it back and take a more favorable position to build the play.
The Swiss is more secure on the ball and rarely takes a risk but, in doing so, he becomes predictable and slows down the build-up play.
The Swiss doesn’t want to receive the ball with his back to the goal, Thomas Partey WANTS the ball exactly that way.
Of course, Thomas Partey has been guilty of losing the ball in dangerous areas and sometimes looked sloppy on the ball, however has been much better than he’s been given credit for.
For a guy who joined a new Club and a new league on deadline day, suffered several injuries for the first time in his career and initially played in a highly-dysfunctional team, his performances were much better than they appeared.
While being the most solid midfielders when contesting the ball, either on the ground or in the air, Thomas Partey was fairly superior to both Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka for successful take-ons and chances created (per 90 minutes), which highlights his unique profile within our squad and his willingness to move forward, speeding-up the play in the process.
Those who expected to see a pure defensive midfielder surely were disappointed by Thomas Partey, because the player we acquired is not the same player that used to play for Atletico Madrid.
We got a player who can turn, run through his opponents and send his teammate through on goal with three touches, as he did with Alexandre Lacazette against Sheffield United. That’s quite a transformation compared to Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny or Dani Ceballos.
This is how modern football is played, with defensive midfielders able to orchestrate the play, attacking midfielders moving in-field from wide positions, full-backs tucking-in to help progressing the ball and there is no room left for specialists, who would do a couple of things incredibly well.
Thomas Partey is here to do it all and carry us forward like he does with the ball, on the pitch
They sold Thomas Partey the destroyer, we signed Thomas Partey the ultimate box-to-box midfielder.
I believe there is much more to come from him, once fully fit and integrated, and next season could see him flourishing for good
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.