Arsenal left it late but they secured a £45m move for Black Stars deputy skipper Thomas Partey on deadline day.
Mikel Arteta is a long-standing admirer of the Ghanaian midfield dynamo who excelled under Diego Simeone with Atlético Madrid. Because of Partey’s all-round midfield capabilities and ability to adapt to various systems, his signing presents a number of options to the Arsenal boss in terms of how he sets up his side. Apart from being a physical ball-player, Partey is also an efficient dribbler and ball-carrier.
Atlético has fielded a narrow 4-4-2 of late with Partey alongside Saúl Ñíguez in the midfield engine-room. With Arsenal opting for a fluid 3-4-3 at the moment, Thomas will have to slot into that tactical mindset for now, but there’s a strong likelihood that Mikel Arteta will slowly transition his side to a 4-2-3-1 so that he has more players in support of his attack.
Arsenal: Defensive 3-4-3
The existing system would look for defensive stability at the base of midfield, so Dani Ceballos might be the one first-team regular to make way for Partey here. David Luiz is most comfortable playing in a back three as the defensive distributor and organizer, while Bukayo Saka’s versatility and tactical smarts come in handy too.
Arsenal: Attacking 4-2-3-1
When playing at home against sides outside of the top six, as they did most recently in a 2-1 win against Sheffield United, Arsenal might have to sacrifice a defensive midfielder in order to break down stubborn defensive units. Utilizing Partey’s box-to-box skills and Willian’s smart playmaking will be key. This 4-2-3-1 is a balanced side that can hold onto the ball for long enough but also spring attacks quickly without pondering and overdoing it.
Arteta would have been highly encouraged by Pépé’s goal on the weekend which was the result of a 19-pass move by a fluid-looking team.
Arsenal: Wildcard 4-3-3
A hybrid 4-3-3 formation might become an option a little further down the line too. This would be a team built around pace with Kieran Tierney and Héctor Bellerín bombing on from fullback, Nicolas Pépé deployed as a conventional wide forward and Ainsley-Maitland Niles’ electric speed and running power in wide areas. Partey, Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos would allow Arsenal to hog possession of the ball and dictate the tempo of matches. This setup would allow the Gunners to lay chances on a plate for skipper and star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
What’s immediately evident is that Thomas Partey’s arrival gives Mikel Arteta a wealth of options in the centre of the park. In turn, it gives him options all over the pitch. Options are a precious commodity in modern football.