You’ve got to love the Arsenal fanbase. Last night as the door began creaking shut on the transfer window, Arsenal confirmed Thomas Partey as our final signing of this extended summer window, having finally paid the release clause and agreed the deal with the Ghanaian and his representatives. Going the other way – although we already knew it but it was confirmed anyway – was Lucas Torreira, who passed his medical over the weekend and was just waiting official confirmation.
But why do I say you gotta love our fanbase? The puns. The glorious puns and play on words that flooded social media channels last night. We’d expect nothing else from a player who’s surname brings up such connotations in a year in which that very thing is limited to just six of you social distancing.
This is a good signing. A great signing. We can talk about the fact he’s 27 and so from a resale perspective he might be in his 30s by the time contract number two needs to be negotiated, but that’s for the bean counters to get worried about, because today what we are looking at is a player who could drastically improve the composition of our midfield for the ‘now’.
New strikers to the league sometimes take a while to get used to the league because of the pace, the need to time their runs and if they don’t score early, they start to feel the pressure. For defenders and ‘keepers it is the opposite in that they need to quickly adapt because not being up to speed with the league could cost your team goals. Midfielders are a little different in my opinion. Sure, they need adaptation in the league and he will need to acclimatise, but to me Partey has all of the attributes of a player to be successful in the league and so the hope is that with his attributes he will quickly slot in to a team that has needed an injection of midfield for some time. And we all know it.
But ‘we got him’ and that will make many happy Arsenal fan faces this morning as we all go about doing our daily routine. We have ourselves a physically dominant, athletic, strong enforcer who will certainly improve our side. He can play alongside Xhaka and provide hard running and covering ground, but he can also travel with the ball in the middle of the park and having watched a few videos of him it looks like we are getting a guy who will be able to receive the ball and beat a man too. That is something we haven’t had and we need to be very glad this was confirmed yesterday because with him in the side the hope is that teams will think twice about how the line up against us.
Think about some of the recent games. If we had a player who can break a high press through beating his many and travelling 10 – 15 yards before he can pass the ball, it automatically puts teams on the back foot. But when teams break on us if we have a guy who can quickly cover ground back to provide cover then it also gives an element of protection to our defensive line. We’ve already seen how when teams get beyond Xhaka/Ceballos then we can be in trouble through the middle. Hopefully Partey will have the engine and ability to avoid those massive gaps in front of our back line.
If he can it should also give Mikel the confidence to play a back four more often. If he knows that the cover will arrive from a player like Partey then he can take one of those three central defenders and place an additional position further up the pitch. Against Sheffield United we went with four at the back and it meant Hector got forward, but also that we got Saka on the pitch and we all saw how we benefitted from his inclusion.
This signing opens up opportunities for Arteta and that for me is so exciting.
So how did this all happen in the space of a day? On Saturday evening we were all so down because of what happened with Aouar. The decision was that he was staying at Lyon and the Partey deal just wasn’t happening. To top that all off Atletico had refused to countenance evening opening up discussions with Arsenal over Partey, whilst at the same time happily chatting away to us about a loan for Torreira. It felt like we were getting the sh*tty end of the stick.
But this is where you have to give credit to the Arsenal administration and, as it seems this morning (although we’ll find out in coming days), we also need to give credit to KSE. I have been openly critical of KSE and the way they have run Arsenal but apparently they have played an important role in bankrolling this deal because the only way Arsenal were going to prize Partey out of Madrid was if we paid his full release clause to La Liga on deadline day. And that we duly did.
Now, there’s an element of needing to connect the dots yourself here, but quite simply Arsenal do not have £45million in cold, hard, cash to drop on any player. We have been affected more than most by the global pandemic because we rely so heavily on matchday revenue. Therefore one can only assume that the Kroenke’s have taken a look at the situation and decided to take an uncharacteristic gamble on the Manager and his wishes. Make no mistake about it, this deal doesn’t happen unless Mikel is pushing hard for it, so for KSE to back him in such a way shows how much esteem they hold him in.
It is also the first sign of ambition and self-responsibility that the Kroenke’s have taken since they became majority owners at the club. This is a positive. I don’t think any of us expect them to give the club £250million to spend, but sometimes you need that nudge to get you that player who can make a difference and in previous years where they have just ignored that obvious truth in football, this time they have rolled the dice. And they’ve done it because they know that if Mikel Arteta gets the right tools, we have a very real opportunity to get top four. This signing feels like it gets us close to being able to ask the question as to whether we can get there this summer. It is a move that strengthens us massively and whilst the creative question was not answered externally, just by the fact we were able to free up a position to get Saka in to the team on Sunday, I wonder if the famous old ‘internal solutions’ in those creative spots might be something that Arteta has in his mind.
Of course this was not the only transfer involving Arsenal yesterday. We talked about Torreira going the other way, but Guendouzi also headed to Hertha BSC on a season long loan, clearly with the intention of repairing his reputation and earning a big move next summer. I hope he does it. It will only work out well for him and also us too, given that next summer we’ll need the cash to help repay some of the money that has already been injected by the club. But the fact he has joined Hertha who finished 10th in the Bundesliga and aren’t exactly viewed as one of the big teams in Germany, shows that perhaps his stock isn’t as high as he, or some of our fans, thought it might be. Good luck to him whilst he remains an Arsenal player.
There is also the question about the overseas player quota because, as I understand it, we are only allowed 17 and we have 19 currently on our books. That means two players can’t even be registered and shows you just how desperately we were to get some off our books so we could create space. If I had to guess it would be that Ozil will be one of those not registered, but who will be the second man, I wonder? If I had to guess I’d say one of the many centre halves and that feels like Sokratis to me. He was rumoured to be out the door but didn’t go and we have far better players. It will also hopefully mean that in January, which is less than three months away, he will be more eager than ever to find a new club and so hopefully we can come to some kind of nominal fee agreement for the player.
But these are questions for another day. For now we need to be happy that we got our man and that this summer appears to have worked out after all.
Catch you guys tomorrow.
Oooh a quick p.s. – absolutely loved the way in which Arsenal didn’t inform Atletico Madrid about the fact they were getting Partey. Having gone all summer telling us to ‘do one’ Arsenal were under no obligation to tell them anything, so decided that two can play the ‘Billy Big Balls’ game and that was a little cherry on the transfer cake!