Thomas Parteys’ reputation at Atletico Madrid was of a tough tackling midfielder, who could occasionally break the press and had a rocket of a right-foot. His shot-taking ability aside, Partey has displayed all these qualities and so much more in recent games.
Operating next to Granit Xhaka, Partey has seemed intent on showing that his ability on the ball far exceeds that of which he was allowed to display under Diego Simeone. Several times this season Partey has managed to break up opposition attacks and advance the ball up the pitch singled-handedly.
He has also shown glimpses of elite ball playing ability, beating a man and playing in Aubameyang in behind with a lofted pass against Newcastle and most recently putting Lacazette through on goal with a well weighted through ball against Sheffield United. Partey has flashed his potential as a press-resistent ball playing midfielder at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield. He is the closest thing to a one-man midfield that Arsenal have had in a very very long time.
Mikel Arteta has seemed to have noticed this too, giving him the responsibility of anchoring the midfield more often in recent games. This allows Kieran Tierney to overlap more often, with Xhaka dropping in his place from midfield and gives the license to Martin Odegaard/Emile Smith-Rowe to stay higher up the pitch to link play.
When Arsenal found themselves 3-0 down to West Ham within the opening half-hour, Partey’s ability to anchor the midfield by himself allowed Odegaard to roam free and create chances from half-spaces higher up the pitch. Something similar happened against Sheffield on the weekend, but this time Partey took up this role for the entire game with Xhaka playing left-back and Ceballos playing more or less as left-wing back. Parteys’ positioning allowed Bukayo Saka to thrive much like Odegaard against West Ham.
Parteys’ abilities provide an entire new dimension to Arsenal’s attack, allowing their best players to receive the ball quicker and in much more dangerous areas. Partey has proved that he is capable of taking on this responsibility and his form will certainly dictate Arsenal’s success in the Europa League and beyond.