Mikel Arteta Should Heed “Dangerous” Verdict In The Wake Of Fresh Thomas Partey Setback
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta looks set to be without midfield lynchpin Thomas Partey again, but the Ghanian’s absence must not be allowed to impact Granit Xhaka’s impressive form
Arsenal have enjoyed a fine start to the new Premier League campaign, but Thomas Partey’s latest injury setback represents a major blow for Mikel Arteta’s side.
The Ghana midfielder has looked the part whenever he has been fit since joining the Gunners in a £45million deal from Atletico Madrid back in 2020, and Arsenal are unbeaten in the matches that Partey has featured in so far this term.
But the 29-year-old has been plagued by injuries during his time at the Emirates. The midfield enforcer has already missed three Premier League games with a thigh issue – and now the former Arsenal man looks set for another spell on the sidelines after he was withdrawn from the Ghana squad that lost 3-0 to Brazil on Friday night.
If Partey’s knee issue does rule him out for an extended period, then Arteta has a decision to make in midfield with the transfer window shut. But regardless of Partey’s prognosis, the Spaniard has to resist the temptation to tinker with Granit Xhaka’s current role.
The Swiss midfielder has not always enjoyed the best of times in north London, but he has been in a rich vein of form after being given a license to roam this season.
Xhaka lined up alongside Partey in a double midfield pivot and was influential in Arsenal’s impressive 3-0 win over Brentford just prior to the international break. Partey’s ability to break up play and screen Arsenal’s back four gave Xhaka the freedom to nudge further forward and work his magic in more advanced areas of the pitch; an approach that has paid dividends for both club and player in recent weeks.
Unfortunately, Partey’s absence has the scope to change all that. Xhaka has been shackled with a more defensive role in the past, and there’s every chance that Arteta could ask the former Borussia Monchengladbach man to once again adopt a more conservative role until his midfield partner is fit again – regardless of whoever is drafted into the Arsenal team to replace Partey.
But Arteta should resist the temptation to do that if he can. Xhaka’s new role has given Arsenal a new dimension in midfield. That was a point stressed by former Gunners striker Ian Wright, who insisted that Xhaka is a “really dangerous” player when he is given the freedom to operate in advanced areas.
Wright told Match of the Day after the Brentford match: “For me, Granit Xhaka is a player that we’re finally seeing him play like he does for Switzerland. He’s playing in a position that suits him, playing more offensively. He’s playing with real authority and confidence.
“Lately he’s been able to find space and from there he can be really dangerous because, for me, he’s got easily one of the best left-foots in the Premier League.”