Tactical Insight: Aouar vs Partey – Who does Arsenal need to prioritise this window?

Tactical Insight: Aouar vs Partey – Who does Arsenal need to prioritise this window?

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What appears clear at this stage is that Houssem Aouar is closer to a move to Arsenal. With Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas confirming that whilst Arsenal have bid for the Frenchman, the Gunners are still some way off his valuation.

Although, Arteta and Arsenal seem closer to the signing of Aouar, it begs the question if Arsenal are right to do so?

It seems a lifetime ago that Arsenal’s midfield featured technical ability in combination with intimidating physicality. Arsene Wenger decided to replace the iconic Patrick Vieira with the impudent Cesc Fabregas and never looked back.

For a short time, Abou Diaby looked to be a possible return to a former style of midfielder, however a series of horrific injuries put an end to that.

Wenger signed players such as Alexander Hleb, Denilson, Samir Nasri, and Santi Cazorla. Even post-Wenger, Unai Emery’s midfield reinforcement came in the form of the diminutive Lucas Torreira.

Houssem Aouar again represents a continuation of the norm for the Gunners, granted at a much higher level, but should that be the priority?

Aouars of footage tell us…

The biggest plus Aouar has is the central creativity he provides. In the 3-4-3 formation Arteta deploys, Xhaka, Elneny and Ceballos, whoever may be selected, have a high concentration of passes into wide positions (as shown below).

Xhaka (left) and Elneny (right) passing into the final third vs Fulham. Displaying a favouring of their flanks and a lack of central passing.

Xhaka (left) and Elneny (right) passing into the final third vs Fulham. Displaying a favouring of their flanks and a lack of central passing.

Whilst the addition of Aouar would enable the possibility of adding a third midfielder to provide that cutting edge, losing the additional defender could lead to frailties at the back.

Bring the Partey

This is where the argument for Partey thrives. Adding Partey to the midfield would enable the offensive switch to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Whilst also improving defensive solidity in the middle.

Not only that, but the capacity of the Ghanaian extends beyond defensive guile. Partey’s ability to drive the ball so effectively up the field would transform the Gunners into a side who can beat the press.


This arguably would increase the creative capacity of the Gunners. With more opportunities to break into the opposition’s final third to set up chances, whether Aouar is the man there or not, Arsenal would certainly become more creative through frequency.

Take the example of the Arsenal vs Leicester last season. The Gunners were pinned back in their own half for significant periods of the game. Any attempt to escape led to a loss of possession and further pressure from the Foxes. This pressure ultimately told and Leicester scored taking away a huge 2 points as Arsenal chased a European place.

Closing thoughts

The dream scenario is for Arsenal to sign both players. With the financial restrictions and lack of suitors for possible departures this does seem unlikely.

Were the Gunners able to pull off both signings it would certainly establish the side as top four contenders this season. A midfield three of Xhaka, Partey and Aouar, with what the north London side have in their attack and in wide areas, is a scary prospect.

What is certain is that an exciting couple of weeks remains for tentative Gunners fans.

See also: ‘Arsenal can’t invest the price’: Lyon chief casts doubt over Gunners’ Aouar swoop

Lyon’s President responds to Arsenal bid saying Gunners are “too far off” / Homegrown quota threatens Arsenal’s business

This article was edited by Josh Barker.

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# Team MP D P
1 Tottenham Hotspur FC 10 12 21
2 Liverpool FC 10 5 21
3 Chelsea FC 10 12 19
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8 Manchester United FC 9 0 16
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Player Team Goals
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Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 9
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 8
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 8
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 7
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United FC 7
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 7
Bamford, Patrick Leeds United 7
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa FC 6
Grealish, Jack Aston Villa FC 5
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace FC 5
Ings, Danny Southampton FC 5
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 5
Ward-Prowse, James Southampton FC 4
Werner, Timo Chelsea FC 4
Mahrez, Riyad Manchester City FC 4
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 4
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion FC 4
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Jimenez, Raul Wolverhampton Wanderers FC 4