In the aftermath of Arsenal’s defeat at Old Trafford, Thomas Partey was quick to acknowledge he’s still not performing at the level he knows he can. It’s an ongoing theme of his time at the Emirates with injuries (both his own and those picked up by Granit Xhaka) hindering his chance to build confidence and momentum.
Given the Ghana international heads off to the African Cup of Nations soon, Mikel Arteta is keen to get the best out of the midfielder sooner rather than later, especially with so many games in quick succession.
“Thomas is a really important player in the team and obviously we’ve missed him for long periods since he joined,” he said ahead of Monday’s trip to Everton.
“And that is not ideal but our energy is just to get the best out of him and how we will do that.
“The fact he had so many injuries has not been really helpful for him because he hasn’t found the platform first of all physically to be at his best and then he has had games where he has been more consistent than in others.
“We need him at his best and he can produce more. He knows we have to demand more.”
Since signing from Atletico Madrid in October 2020, Partey has anchored the Gunners midfield alongside a whole host of teammates. Dani Ceballos, Mo Elneny, Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have all shared the centre of the park with the 28-year-old while formation tweaks have also seen Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard drop deeper to help out.
According to Arteta, all that mixing and matching, isn’t helping: “The fact we have to make some changes there doesn’t give him the consistency or a relationship and partnership with somebody to understand each other because of the injuries we have had but that is part of it so you have to adapt.”
By and large, Arsenal supporters have been patient with Partey, focusing on the flashes of brilliance as reason to believe the player can still live up to his billing. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the £50 million fee paid to secure his services.
Asked whether increased scrutiny and criticism is linked to the pricetag, Arteta said: “I don’t think it is related to the money, they have seen the quality and what he can provide on the pitch. We want to see that more and more often.”
Indeed we do.