Arsenal social media went into meltdown on Saturday. Planes came crashing out of the sky, weddings were halted midway through the ceremony, every motorway came to a standstill and Mikel Arteta’s jaw slammed onto the floor.
Thomas Partey scored a goal. An actual goal.
You know him? The guy who can’t shoot to save his life? The midfielder whose xG per shot at Arsenal is 0.046? Yeah, him. He scored a goal for Ghana in their 3-1 win over Zimbabwe.
A fine goal at that. All of his own doing. Winning the ball back high up at the edge of the box he then darts diagonally into the box, feinting and dummying as he goes, sitting one of the opposition players on his backside before firing low into the near post. Quite a lovely strike.
Should Arsenal be playing goal machine Thomas Partey further forward in Mikel Arteta’s side after another fine goal for Ghana against Zimbabwe?
Where is this for Arsenal? Hmm.
Interestingly, when away with the national team Partey is sometimes given the freedom to play as a more advanced No. 8. Whether with Iddrisu Baba alongside him or someone else, the chance to express on the ball is opened up and covering space behind is lessened.
And, despite all the borderline hilarity of his shooting ability in red and white, Partey has 11 goals in 32 international appearances for the Black Stars. He averages a goal every three games. Remarkable stuff.
All of which begs the question: is he being misused by Arteta? Are his talents being wasted sitting as the deepest pivot tasked with progressing the ball, screening the defence and feeding those with slightly more attacking acumen?
Maybe. But it’s not happening.
The clear caveat of the difference in quality of the opposition needs, of course, mentioning. Not only are the likes of São Tomé and Príncipe, with all due respect, not on par with the Brighton’s of this world, but also Ghana are one of the better sides in Africa and have a higher calibre of player in their team to allow the likes of Partey that additional freedom.
Upon signing for Arsenal one of the aspects hat helped encourage Partey to move to the Premier League was the chance to be slightly more ambitious on the ball: more carries, late arrivals at the edge of the penalty box and, as seen, shooting opportunities. Only in the 4-1-4-1 is he limited in an attacking sense as a clear No. 6.
Someone like Granit Xhaka or Albert Sambi Lokonga in a double pivot allows him to venture forward, even if the latter was asked to play left centre-back too often against Brighton. Less of that, please.
Most importantly of all though, is that Arsenal need Partey where he is at his best. That is as a No. 6 with license for additional dashes of in-possession exploration. What works on the international stage rarely ever transfers into club football fluidly.
Greater balance is needed, however; Sambi and Partey can dovetail symmetrically as opposed to one manning the midfield on his own. Partey is, above all, too brilliant at reading danger, intercepting and progressing centrally to be played even further forward: defensive with the cover the elegantly bulldoze forward.
Nonetheless, a touch of the Ghana goal machine in the Premier League wouldn’t go amiss. Or, make the rule only letting him shoot in the box. That could work.
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