Despite a largely disappointing transfer window, Arsenal fans had their mood lifted as the Gunners finally activated Thomas Partey’s release clause of €50m before the deadline. After having reported interest in the Ghanaian throughout the whole window, Arsenal left it late to get their man, yet this didn’t dull any excitement from the Gunners faithful, as many cited his signing as exactly what they needed. Pundits and fans alike have been saying for years now that Arsenal needed some steel in their midfield, someone who can add some defensive stability and reinforcement, so we thought we’d see just what Partey will bring to the Emirates.
In order to see how Partey’s style of play compares to the rest of Arsenal’s midfield, we decided to look into the stats and see if they show Partey to be a similar player to the midfielders that Arsenal fans have been used to in previous seasons. For this reason, we stacked him up against Xhaka, Ceballos, Torreira and Guendouzi. Seeing as Partey is considered more of a defensive midfielder and can even slot in at centre back if necessary, let’s start off with his numbers there.
Partey is a player known for his work rate and although often considered a symptom of players in Diego Simeone’s teams, he covers an awful lot of ground, even compared to his teammates in the Spanish capital. Nicknamed ‘The Octopus’ for his ability to tackle opposition players from any angle, Partey loves to eat up ground before dispossessing an opponent, a quality backed up by the fact that last season in La Liga he averaged 7.9 ball recoveries per 90 minutes of football. For comparison, this is well clear of all the Arsenal midfielders mentioned, with the exception of Dani Ceballos (8.2). I was really surprised to see Ceballos coming out on top here, however, this doesn’t take away from the fact that Partey will certainly be vital in Arsenal winning the ball back as a team with his fantastic levels of stamina. Building on this, Partey averaged 2.5 tackles made per game and was top here in this respect, well clear of the others, again, apart from Spain’s Dani Ceballos, who was only just behind with 2.4. In terms of clearances, blocks and interceptions, Partey’s stats don’t really stand out and are fairly middling, but you could argue that this work is primarily left to the defenders at Atelti as they employ their deep line to soak up pressure and then counter.
Now we can move onto Partey’s contribution to the other side of the game and see if he offers much in an attacking or at least progressive sense. Firstly, Partey averages 20.2 forward passes per 90 mins, comfortably ahead of the other Arsenal midfielders listed. This is a stat that doesn’t surprise me as from watching Partey, you will notice that as soon as he wins the ball, his first thought is always to do something positive and in a forward direction, whether that be driving with the ball himself or attempting to start a counter with a pass to a teammate. Partey’s style often looks hurried and erratic as a result of this urgent forward thinking mentality but he does have the quality to do it effectively too and this is backed up by the fact that he has ranked 6th in successful dribbles in La Liga for two seasons in a row now.
Partey also ranks 5th for passes into the final third this season and 9th for progressive passes, so whilst this could potentially speak more for Atletico Madrid’s aggressive counter attacking style; with the quality Arsenal have going forward, it will certainly do no harm getting to ball to them quickly and often. However, it seems that this positive passing may come at a cost as Partey falls well short when it comes to pass accuracy with 83.38%, this ranks last among the Arsenal midfielders last season and is also well behind Torreira who is next with 87.82%. Perhaps Arsenal fans can hope that Partey will be able to make up for this with his excellent ball winning abilities.
As you would probably expect, Partey doesn’t rank very high in terms of passes attempted per 90 mins, with only Torreira behind him on this one, but as we’ve shown earlier on, he can still be very effective with what he does do on the ball. His passes are fairly evenly spread with slightly more tending to come in the opponent’s half (27.2) than his own half (21.2). Interestingly enough, Dani Ceballos actually came out on top in these stats, so that could be an excellent partnership as they are able to cover for each other’s weaknesses.
In conclusion, Arsenal fans can expect a hard working, ball winning midfielder, whose first though is always to start an attack. This strong defensive presence in the midfield combined with an aggressive attacking mentality could work wonders in Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side. The Gunners have often been accused of trying to walk the ball into the net in years gone by, so Partey’s enthusiasm for quick counter attacking football could be a real breath of fresh air at the Emirates. The two time Ghanaian player of the year looks to be a great bit of business and based on his stats, seems like a good pairing with fellow former La Liga midfielder Dani Ceballos.
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