Tactical Insight: Why Arsenal and Arteta must land Thomas Partey

The new Vieira?

It feels almost a lifetime since Patrick Vieira moved on from Arsenal after winning the FA Cup in 2005.

Since, the comparisons with players have been rife. Arsenal even had a young talent by the name of Abou Diaby tipped for similar greatness.

Whilst the descriptions around ‘the new Vieira’ being needed at Arsenal have been consistent, Arsenal have yet to replace the Frenchman more than a decade and a half later. They instead transitioned under Arsene Wenger to more smaller, passing technicians such as Cesc Fabregas who replaced the Frenchman,

LONDON – FEBRUARY 1: Patrick Vieira and Francesc Fabregas of Arsenal look dejected as Manchester win 2-4 in the Barclays Premiership match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Highbury on February 1, 2005 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

That could soon change though. Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey has long been linked with a move to the Arsenal. The Ghana international would provide the intelligent technical play, commanding midfield presence and consistent performances the Gunners have lacked for many seasons.

Transformative

To understand Arsenal’s need for Partey is to understand his great strengths. Whilst another one of Arsenal’s targets, Houssem Aouar, may offer more creativity, Partey offers Arsenal escape.

By escape, this refers to the 27-year-old’s ability to beat the high press.

Partey is almost violent in the way he picks up the ball and drives forward. Whilst seemingly not blessed with deft control, the natural ability to glide up and out of Atleti’s own third and to start attacks breeds pure confidence.

The midfielder completed 63.2% of his dribbles last season (Wyscout).

MADRID - SPAIN: Partey picks up the ball on the edge of the Atletico box and drives forward showing his effectiveness on the ball. (Source: Wyscout)

MADRID – SPAIN: Partey picks up the ball on the edge of the Atletico box and drives forward showing his effectiveness on the ball. (Source: Wyscout)

Arsenal’s current deep midfield option is Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder has been imperative to Arteta’s playing style and rightly would see his place maintained even with the arrival of Partey – likely as a midfield partnership.

However, Xhaka only attempts 1.21 dribbles per game on average, with Partey attempting more than double. The former Gunners captain relies on passing to the wide areas from deep to play around opposition presses. Whilst he does this well, there are times when an inaccurate pass can put Arsenal under further pressure.

The intelligence Thomas Partey possesses leads to the correct decisions being made more often than not upon a dribbles’ completion. It is this consistent, transformative play that likely excites Arteta so much about the possibility of Partey’s inclusion.

MADRID - SPAIN: Having taken the Atleti possession from a defensive area forward, Partey now looks to set up possible attacking situations. (Source: Wyscout)

MADRID – SPAIN: Having taken the Atleti possession from a defensive area forward, Partey now looks to set up possible attacking situations. (Source: Wyscout)

Speculative

Whilst the move itself is considered ambitious by the Arsenal, the Atleti midfielder has similarities to Xhaka in this sense.

Averaging around 1.2 shots on average per game, the Ghanaian enjoys an effort from outside the box. Of the 48 shots taken last season, 42 of them were from distance. Rather amusingly, of the 6 shots taken inside the box, Partey scored 3 of them – with just 1 of the 42 finding the back of the net from more speculative distances.

Shot location of Thomas Partey for the 2019/20 season. (Source: Wyscout)

Shot location of Thomas Partey for the 2019/20 season. (Source: Wyscout)

Although Partey’s shooting from distance may not concern even the more modicum defences, there could be a plus side.  Partey and Xhaka share the enjoyment of a long-ranged effort and with Arteta’s style very much based around a slick incisive passing system, having the unpredictability of a 30-yard screamer coming a keeper’s way could be a secret advantage.

Closing thoughts

If Arsenal are able to offload enough players to boost their financial capacity they must seek to activate the reported £45 million release clause for Partey.

Arteta’s second priority target Houssem Aouar would bring the central creativity that the Gunners lack, however, the Frenchman, at 22 years-of-age, has shown a lack of consistency at times. Partey presents the option to get a ready-made winner. A player with an unrivalled combination of intelligent technical ability and imposing physicality.

The task is simple. If it can be done, it must be done.

See Also: The latest on Arsenal’s Thomas Partey pursuit with Atletico star ‘keen’ to join Gunners

Atletico want Torreira to replace Herrera / Simeone desperate for Partey to stay(Opens in a new browser tab)


This article was edited by Josh Barker.

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