Arsenal’s defeat to Villarreal throws up surprise Thomas Partey problem for Mikel Arteta
Arsenal: Partey insists club belongs in Champions League
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Thomas Partey is understandably taking some time to settle into a new league with Arsenal. However, his performance against a familiar opponent on Thursday was a surprise concern for Mikel Arteta. Partey was one of Arsenal’s worst performers against Villarreal in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final.
Partey has struggled with injuries since his arrival from Atletico Madrid for £45million last summer.
In fact, the Ghana international has already spent more time on the sidelines in his short Arsenal career than he did in five seasons at Atletico.
But generally when he has played, he has proven to be the best midfielder in the Gunners squad.
With the much-maligned Granit Xhaka, loanee Dani Ceballos and Mohamed Elneny as the other options, some may say that is not a high bar for Partey to reach.
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But in recent weeks the 27-year-old has looked surprisingly shaky in the middle of the park.
And Thursday’s performance in Spain was arguably his worst since moving to the Emirates.
Partey was in no way the only bad player on the night, with Ceballos particularly poor before his inevitable red card.
But Arsenal fans expect a lot more from Partey and Thursday’s showing was a concern.
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His passing stats did not stand out as being especially bad, completing 50 of the 58 he attempted.
But statistics do not tell the whole story and only watching the match could you see how much Partey struggled.
Losing the ball in key areas is a major problem, with Arsenal’s suspect defence being left exposed at times.
The most worrying part is the fact the opposition was a team he is used to playing against.
It was the eighth time Partey had played against Villarreal in his career and the fourth occasion he had started at El Madrigal, according to Wyscout.
However, he was completely off his game when Arsenal needed him the most.
Partey has another four years on his Gunners contract and supporters felt he could be the long-term answer to their midfield woes.
Ceballos is very unlikely to have his loan made permanent, Xhaka has surely run his course after five years in the Arsenal side, and Elneny will never be a first-team regular.
So Partey is the player Arteta and supporters have pinned their hopes on.
He must not be written off – he has too much quality for that.
But he cannot afford to play like he did on Thursday on a regular basis.
Oh and Thomas, stop shooting from long range. Please.
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