Yesterday I saw the news emanating from a few sources that Thomas Partey is close to a return to the side and that the club are potentially earmarking the Nottingham Forest game as a match in which he could play a part. My first reaction was a Futurama Professor Farnsworth-style “Good news everyone!” reaction. We have missed Partey, his ability to knit our play together, that verticality in his line breaking passes and we haven’t really been able to properly see a Partey-Rice-Odegaard midfield that many of us were salivating over during the summer.

And I have been thinking to myself for a while that he must be close. Arteta has said in probably his last three or four press conferences that Partey hadn’t started training and I wondered if the club were earmarking the Dubai trip as his first introduction, then when the club get back to the cold weather we have right now (and it is pretty nippy – I went for a run this morning and it was minus one degree centigrade! That may seem fine for you Canadians or Russians, but my body isn’t built for anything with a minus in it) they’ll get him going at Colney. A week of that training to test him out and then if he’s all clear and good then a spot on the bench for Forest away makes sense.

On the Same Old Arsenal pod last weekend I speculated about how I wondered if the club had earmarked the Liverpool game for him to start, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that is actually a little too soon, if you think about that timeline just mapped out. If he’s on the bench against Forest he’s probably only getting 15 mins. If he’s then fit and available for Liverpool at home you’re probably only talking about a half at best. Then for the game after that you might look to start him. So I can’t really see him being fit for that crunch game (well, we hope it’s a crunch game, because if we lose or draw to either Forest or Palace in the next couple of weeks, you get the feeling that any hopes of the title are pretty much dead in the water) and therefore perhaps we need to look a little longer before we see that midfield I mentioned above.

I also wonder what would happen if he was fast tracked to start. If you’re Chris Hughton you’re probably saying that if he’s good enough to train and then play from the start for Arsenal, then he’s good enough to train and start for Ghana. The group stages are pretty much wrapped up by the time the Forest game comes along and if Partey has played 15 minutes max then that’s probably something that would have the Ghana manager thinking “not enough”. If they get through the group stages I think the next round happens just before we would play Liverpool; if Partey still isn’t starting then perhaps Hughton also thinks “still not enough”. But if he plays from the start against Liverpool then maybe a decision is made to bring him in. I don’t know enough about the AFCON and whether you can call up players after the tournament has started, but if you can, then maybe that’s something he will consider doing. But if he can’t call players up then I suspect it is a moot point. I’ve just done a bit of 30 second Googling and can’t find an answer, so maybe you guys can help me out in the comments.

If Ghana are knocked out by the quarter finals then this is all irrelevant anyway. But if they are through, then maybe there will be some people in Ghana questioning whether Partey could have ‘done a job’ from the bench. Who knows.

What we do know is that if there can’t be any call ups to the tournament now it is getting underway, then Arsenal can probably feel a little more free to do what they want, which suits most of us Arsenal fans (who aren’t Ghanaian!).

So there’s clearly a bit of a balance that needs to go on; the club needs to tread the right path between easing him in, being mindful of the relationship with the Ghanaian FA, whilst also getting in an important player at a crucial time in the season.

There’s not a lot else really going on at the moment, other than one or two people taking umbrage with the fact that Saka was seen relaxing on a boat in Dubai with a Fanta. I saw one chap online suggesting it doesn’t set the right message having seen the form we’ve had of recent games. I very much beg to differ. Most Arsenal fans I’ve spoken to in the last couple of weeks all agree that these players need a rest and a reset. Seeing Saka with his feet up is EXACTLY the message I want to receive. If he gets some much needed R&R, if he is relaxing his body and getting himself that mental ‘reset’, then coming back for that game against Palace looking super fresh and ready to have a great second half of the season, then I think most of us will be delighted that he’s been sunning himself in the Middle-Eastern heat. If anything I want to see MORE pictures of the players doing absolutely nothing. If I see Arsenal player pictures for 48 hours and they’re all lying on beaches, getting foot massages, looking happy, then that’ll do me fine enough. These players need this time to rest, relax, then get together and work out between them how we are going to solve our problems in front of goal. Because we need some answers to that goalscoring problem and it feels like this next week needs to have them, if we want to get anywhere close to achieving something magical this season.

Right, I’m done for the day, so it’s time to head in to the office for a day of desk jockeying. Have a good one.