Mikel Arteta says Thomas Partey has the ability to “make players around him better” and rued Arsenal’s bad luck that the Ghanaian has only managed to play two full games in the Premier League since signing on transfer deadline day.
After consecutive starts against Leicester and Manchester United – the latter performance particularly whetting the appetite – the 27-year-old picked up a thigh problem against Aston Villa on 8 November and has been struggling for fitness ever since.
While the player rushed himself through rehab to return against Spurs a month later, he suffered a relapse before half time and has been sidelined ever since. Given the number of games that have taken place in Partey’s absence, you’d be forgiven for forgetting he even exists.
Against the backdrop of his side’s poor form, it’s been particularly frustrating for Arteta but the Spaniard sees light at the end of the tunnel. Back in full training, the summer signing could be part of the matchday squad for tomorrow’s match with Crystal Palace.
Ahead of the game, the boss was asked if he’s seen enough from Partey to think he can have a big influence on the way Arsenal play.
“Absolutely,” said Arteta, “and obviously we’re able to watch him in training and who he is as well.
“I think he’s got a different presence. I think he brings something different to the team, it’s not just about his talent, his physicality, it’s who he is as a person. He makes players around him better and that’s a big, big quality.
“It’s incredible that we are in January, we signed him in the summer, and we only played him twice (full 90 minutes). We haven’t really seen the impact that we believe he can have on the team.
“Obviously, we have missed him. On the other hand, we’ve seen players stepping in as well. When that happened they gave us some really positive news, but it’s going to be a big bonus if we can keep him fit.”
Arriving in London just as the capital’s lockdown restrictions ramped up hasn’t made it easy for Partey to settle in his new surroundings. Add supporter expectations into the mix and it’s obvious the player has had a lot weighing on his mind during his time injured.
“When you are injured, you feel first the responsibility [to play] when the club has made the effort we made to sign him,” noted Arteta.
“He was so willing for months to be joining us, he really wants to be a part [of the team], he knows how much he can help.
“He had to deal with the injuries, with the lockdown and moving into a new place. That’s been tough for him and why he was rushing and wanting to do everything straight away. He’s so willing to come back, he doesn’t want to be alone at home.
“He’s in a really good place to be fair, he’s settled really well in the dressing room, around the staff he’s a special character. Hopefully, we can see him on the pitch finally.”