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Sport Arsenal's 'midfield boss' makes the difference

02:50  23 october  2021
02:50  23 october  2021 Source:   skysports.com

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Any Arsenal followers who were ignorant of Elneny upon his arrival have certainly come round to him now. He was recently voted the club's player of the month for March, having started all five of the Gunners' games across that period. In the space of a few weeks, the Egyptian has made himself a regular fixture in Arsene Wenger's team. This tactically intelligent player has already shown he can flourish in a number of roles in Arsenal ' s midfield . It's fitting that a player who arrived from Switzerland can, like the famous "army knife" of that nation, provide solutions to a variety of different problems.

A midfielder is an association football position. Midfielders are generally positioned on the field between their team' s defenders and forwards.

In a sometimes frenzied first half at the Emirates Stadium, when Arsenal were pouring forwards, challenges were flying in from both sides and tempers were fraying, Thomas Partey remained a figure of calm in the centre of the pitch.

Arsenal supporters are still getting to know the 28-year-old following a stop-start first season in England, most of which was played behind closed doors. But this was him at his unflappable best. This was the player the club have pinned so much hope on.

Thomas Partey scored his first goal for Arsenal against Aston Villa © Getty Thomas Partey scored his first goal for Arsenal against Aston Villa

"He is a player who has to be one of the leaders, he has to be the boss in midfield," said Mikel Arteta last month. He certainly did that here, excelling both in and out of possession and providing a platform for Arsenal's attacking players to tear the visitors apart.

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Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo is determined to help Dele Alli regain his best form. Alli, who endured a torrid season last year and looked set to leave in January, started the campaign well under Nuno in a three-man midfield . But he was woefully exposed in the first half of the north London derby where Arsenal steamed into a 3-0 lead and he did not return after 'All the players in our squad, we have to realise that during their careers there are ups and downs,' Nuno said. 'It is my job to try and make the best out of them, Dele included. 'I don't look individually when I judge them, I am very fair.

What does the Arsenal Midfield need? Arsenal ’ s attacking output mimics that of another rival. The Gunners depend heavily on their attacking trio of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pépé. The difference between the Liverpool and Arsenal CMs (Central- Midfielders ) is the lack of Thru Passes, Long Passes and Final 3rd Passes as seen in the radar charts for Arsenal and Liverpool. While Henderson provides this dynamism for Liverpool, Arsenal is crying out for a creative threat from this area of the field.

Arsenal racked up 14 shots before the break, their highest total in a single half under Arteta, and when Partey was not taking them himself - he hit the bar with one close-range effort shortly before his goal - he was starting the attacks from further back.

Arsenal 3-1 Aston Villa - Match report and highlightsGet Sky Sports | Live football on Sky SportsPremier League table | Fixtures

He was everywhere, in other words, and while his fruitless long-shooting has been a source of frustration for supporters, his long-awaited first goal for Arsenal, headed home from Emile Smith Rowe's corner, showed a set-piece threat they will now hope to see more of.

It is his distribution, though, that stands out as his best quality and it was evident from the first few minutes of the game, when he slid an incisive pass between Matt Targett and Emiliano Buendia to release Bukayo Saka on the right-hand side of the Villa box.

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A win against Chelsea notwithstanding, Arsenal have had a rough time of it in the Premier League over the past few months. An injury to big summer signing, Thomas Partey, hasn’t helped matters, but the fact is that the Gunners are not scoring enough and are conceding far too many. In midfield they remain far too lightweight, and it’ s perhaps with that in mind that Mikel Arteta has targeted Sevilla’ s Joan Jordan for the upcoming winter transfer window. The Sun report that the players release clause is £55m, but that the Andalusians would be prepared to do business at around the £32m mark.

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His ability to break opposition lines is invaluable to Arteta but he does the simple things just as well. There were body feints to give himself a yard of space and clever touches to do the same for team-mates.

At the time of his goal, he had not misplaced a single pass. By the end, he had made passes, had more touches and made more successful tackles than anyone else on the pitch.

He looked like he was enjoying himself and no wonder.

Partey had to endure more than his share of frustration last season, injuries limiting him to only 18 Premier League starts, and there was more misfortune at the start of this one, a twisted ankle suffered in pre-season causing him to miss Arsenal's first three games.

His absence was a significant factor in the defeats that followed, just as his return has been a significant factor in the subsequent upturn in form. Arsenal have not seen enough of Partey at his best but there is no doubt he makes them better.

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Yves Bissouma is the midfield monster the Arsenal fanbase are desperate to see the club sign this summer. It' s no surprise given everytime he plays against the Gunners he physically dominates and shines a light on the lack of dynamism currently at Mikel Arteta' s disposal. Taking that into consideration, if Bissouma was to arrive with a view to him partnering Partey, the boss may be forced into rethinking the way in which the team looks to progress the ball from the defence into midfield and beyond.

He does that, in part, by making others better. "I think he's got a different presence," said Arteta back in January. "It's not just about his talent and his physicality, it's who he is as a person. He makes players around him better and that's a big, big quality."

He certainly did that on Friday night. Takehiro Tomiyasu had a difficult start at right-back, losing possession on several occasions and allowing Villa to exploit the space behind him, but Partey helped him through it, offering him instructions and staying close to him.

Smith Rowe was named man-of-the-match but Partey had a role in that too, constantly looking for the 21-year-old in possession and providing the service he needed to thrive. No player received more passes from Partey over the course of the 90 minutes.

Much had been made of Granit Xhaka's absence due to injury in the wake of Monday's 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace but, having been alone in midfield for much of that game, Partey was helped by the presence of Albert Sambi Lokonga alongside him in this one.

The two-man midfield ensured greater solidity. And while Lokonga has made an assured start to life at Arsenal following his £15m arrival from Anderlecht in the summer, it is no coincidence that his best performance yet came next to Partey.

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The Ghanaian was signed for his experience as well as his quality, after all, and that has become even more important given how the profile of the side has changed this season.

Against Villa, seven of Arsenal's starters were aged 23 or under, while in Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, their three substitutes were 20, 22 and 24 respectively.

The youthful make-up of the side adds to the responsibility on Partey's shoulders, but on this evidence he is more than ready to take it on.

An uncharacteristically weak challenge in the build-up to Villa's goal was a rare blot on an otherwise excellent performance but Arsenal's "midfield boss", their figure of calm amid the chaos, is finally making the impact Arteta always hoped he would.

  Arsenal's 'midfield boss' makes the difference Emile Smith Rowe celebrates his goal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang © Associated Press Emile Smith Rowe celebrates his goal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

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