This morning I’ve woken up and the first thought popping in to my head is:
“What are we going to do about Thomas Partey, eh?”
I wonder if Arteta is thinking the same? Maybe, but maybe not, because perhaps he has more information about the Ghanaian that we do not have? Perhaps he is privy to information that we don’t have and perhaps Partey has not been 100% since returning from injury that he sustained just before the international break?
It’s clear to most of us though that his form hasn’t exactly been amazing. Last season when he played we all saw signs of the player we were getting and in almost every game this season that he’s played there are moments when you see what an impressive player he could be. He has strength and power and his ball control is good. Sometimes his ball distribution and eye for a pass is also impressive and you only have to look at his part in the build up to Odegaard’s goal on Thursday to see the calibre of play that is in there. The problem is that he is making as many mistakes as you’d expect one of the younger players in their early 20s to make. Except he’s in his late 20s and we really should be getting a more consistent level of performance from one of our most highly paid players.
Is this just a blip though? Perhaps because Partey has been injured so infrequently in his career, his body has not been used to sporadic periods of time where he has to adjust and get back up and running. Remember how Aaron Ramsey used to take half a dozen games after injury before we’d see him up and running and purring again in midfield? Maybe the same is true of Thomas Partey. He was basically never injured at Atletico and that enabled him to put together long runs of games. It meant his body was functioning like a well-oiled machine. He has never had more than three months without an injury since joining us I believe and that was at the end of last season. I wonder if he’s a guy with whom we need to have about six games before we see him at his imperious best.
The problem we have is that if that’s true then he’s going to hit top form by the time we play West Ham on 15th December, then 15 days later he’ll be off to the AFCON. I suppose in that time there will be another four matches including the EFL Cup, so there will be games to have him up and running and playing his best football, but then we lose him for a month and therein lies another problem for Mikel Arteta to solve.
And I have no idea how he solves it because it’s not as if we can just rotate Partey out. He’s our big name signing, he’s our guy who is the experienced head, the one who should be the lynchpin of the team in the middle of the park, yet his last couple of games he has underwhelmed. Elneny is clearly not the guy, Sambi could be the guy but his performance against Liverpool in that small spell where he lost his head shows that he is not ready yet, which si fine because time is on his side and what we’ve seen so far is impressive enough to have us all happy. Maitland-Niles has only now been considered as a midfield option but Arteta is reluctant to do so, whilst Granit Xhaka is still out and we have no idea when he’ll be back or whether it’ll take him half a dozen games to get back to form and fitness. So Arteta must stick with Partey and he must just hope that he can quickly recover the form.
For what it is worth I think he has it in him. The fact he had a bit of a stinker against Man United and wasn’t great against Newcastle, yet still played some decent and important parts in those games, tells me that he has it in him. This isn’t like Auba where people are questioning whether he is falling off a cliff because of his age curve. Partey still has plenty of years left in his tank I reckon and for me it is merely a case of him needing to rediscover form, rather than a longer term issue of whether he is good enough any more. I think it is obvious he should be; he’s tall, physically well built, can cover ground and is good technically with the ball at his feet. He can play quickly and therefore has all of the attributes needed for a modern day Premier League central midfielder. What we need to do is to get those performances out of him.
He recognises this too though, to be fair to him, as he was quoted after the game and said how the team and he needs to improve. They certainly do and he needs to be leading them in that regard. A good – nay, GREAT – Thomas Partey is the only way we achieve any success this season I reckon. So it’s up to him to step up and start delivering, or it’ll be another season of disappointment and it could even go as far as costing Arteta his job if we start to decline like we did last season. But that’s a way away so I’m not going to get too stressed just yet. The players have time and games and they need to start improving from a results perspective.
The good news – we must hope – is that we have an opportunity for him and the other players to make amends for the performance on Monday night, so we won’t have long to wait before our next game. They simply must deliver a performance and three points now though. The pressure is certainly on.