Thomas Partey has been freed from the Diego Simeone straitjacket and can complete Arsenal’s midfield puzzle… but the late exit left Atletico Madrid fans wondering who to blame
- Thomas Partey is boost to Arsenal’s midfield having joined on deadline day
- Former Atletico Madrid man was played out of position by Diego Simeone
- He’ll relish having the shackles off if Mikel Arteta allows him more freedom
- Atletico fans are angry with the late departure and wondering who to blame
He will need to get up to speed – Arsenal play at a different pace to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid – but if Thomas Partey makes the adjustment quickly there is no reason why he can’t complete Mikel Arteta’s midfield puzzle in style.
The Atletico Madrid supporters did not want to see him go. When they were being run out of the Champions League by RB Leipzig in August most of them were all drawing the same conclusion: this is what happens when Partey is missing.
A thigh strain had prevented him starting and he watched from the bench as Simeone’s side were over-powered, out-played and knocked out.
Thomas Partey leaves a hole in Atletico Madrid’s midfield but their loss is Arsenal’s gain
The Gunners will be excited for Partey to add dynamism to their midfield play
He had a strange relationship with Simeone. He was the second most-used out-field player last season but there was always a sense of him playing within the Argentine coach’s straitjacket. Arteta will want to take the shackles off to get his £45m-worth.
Partey is not a holding midfielder. He played there for Atletico because of the club’s limited alternatives in that position after selling Rodri to Manchester City last summer.
But when Atletico sent him out on loan as a youngster to Mallorca and Almeria he usually ended up as an attacking midfielder and for Ghana he has even played as a No 10.
He is more comfortable when he receives the ball in front of him. He’ll do that at Arsenal if he plays to one side of Granit Xhaka.
The Ghanaian was deployed in a holding role at Atletico but prefers to bomb forward
Ask him to do Xhaka’s job and he’ll be less confident receiving the ball facing his own goal or on the half turn. He is better when he is driving forward.
Arteta will know he is getting an excellent long passer. There were two first-half precision deliveries behind the Villarreal defence for Kieran Trippier to run on to on Saturday in Partey’s last game for Atletico.
He breaks through lines well and shoots powerfully and if he plays next to Xhaka or in a three joined by Dani Ceballos the scope will be there for him to get up and down the pitch. It’s freedom of movement that he did not always have in Madrid.
And it’s that back and forth football that he is desperate to experience in the Premier League. Arsenal are getting a player who wants to play for them, not one being forced out by his club.
Mikel Arteta can help the 27-year-old progress and enter his prime in north London
On Monday night in Madrid, Atletico supporters angry at the late departure were wondering who to blame.
The first narrative that emerged was one of the ungrateful former youth teamer selfishly timing his departure so late that his club could not buy a replacement.
But financially Atletico are helped hugely by his sale and the idea that they had been completely caught out by a late Arsenal bid was not given much credence by sources consulted by Sportsmail.
With Arsenal-owned Lucas Torreira parked-up in Madrid having carried out his medical and waiting to join on loan it seems Atletico had a very good idea that Partey was on his way.
His desire to move had been spiked last season by a stalled new contract that had left him still as one of the first team’s lowest earners.
The club had offered him a renewal but it didn’t put him on a par with other midfielders Koke and Saul and with the pandemic putting major financial strain on La Liga the offer was never going to be increased to his satisfaction. It was time to move on.
Diego Simeone and Co would have preferred a deal to have been done earlier in the window
Partey will have to adapt but he has the physical capacity to thrive in the Premier League
He is not the first player to want to leave Atletico Madrid: Antoine Griezmann moving to Barcelona, and Lucas Hernandez going to Bayern Munich last year, are two recent examples.
Both have under-performed at new clubs. Life outside the Atletico machine is appealing, but often tough to adapt to.
The styles of the two leagues aside, the move from Spain to England won’t faze him. He arrived from Ghana to Spain aged 18. And he had already left home and moved cities in Ghana as a young teenager to play in the country’s second division. He just needs to rewire for the Premier League’s quicker pace.
Former midfielder Arteta knows the role he will be expecting Partey to play. Under his individual tuition the 27-year-old ought to progress and make Simeone’s loss Arsenal’s gain.
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