The last time Arsenal faced Sp*rs, the game was gone by half-time and so too was Thomas Partey.
The Ghana international had been struggling with injury in the three weeks prior to the December trip to White Hart Lane and exacerbated the issue after starting in midfield. His timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate.
Limping to the sidelines just before half time, Partey left a gaping hole in our midfield that Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane exploited to make the score 2-0.
After the game, Mikel Arteta was heavily criticised for risking the 27-year-old who went on to miss a further four weeks of action.
Ahead of the second North London derby of the season, the boss insists that he did not rush the summer signing back from injury.
“He ticked every box to be able to play in that game,” Arteta explained. “After every injury there is a risk for a period, whether it is five days, a week, two weeks or three weeks depending on the load that the player is exposed to.
“But it was a really specific action where he just overstretched the area going to the floor and got his foot trapped and then he felt it again, before the game you cannot know that would have been the way.
“It would be easy to say: ‘Yes, we made a mistake’ – but who would have known if he had played the next game or if he had come off the bench and played 30 minutes instead?”
Of the 23 Premier League games that Arsenal have played since Partey signed, the Ghanaian has started 10, made three appearances off the bench and sat out the rest. It’s been a frustrating start to life at the Emirates and even now, Arteta thinks the player, who he subbed off for tactical reasons in midweek in Athens, is still trying to find some rhythm.
“Rhythm-wise he has struggled a little bit in the last few weeks because he hasn’t had enough training sessions or enough preparation because the league is so demanding,” he said.
“But you can see his quality, you can see the presence and the special qualities he provides to the team when he is on the pitch.
“I think it is just a fact of playing more games, getting some chemistry and understanding with his team-mates and getting as fit as he possibly can.”
A first goal for the club on Sunday wouldn’t go amiss either.