The perfect Partey partner
The upcoming summer transfer window for Arsenal Football Club must focus around upgrading positions with players that would compete with other top 6 sides. There has been a criticism of the club that previous recruitment has been conducted poorly and targeted players that would not necessarily get into their big six rivals’ starting elevens.
That changed in the summer of 2020 when Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu brought in midfielder Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid. He is a world-class talent playing in his prime, acquired with the idea of transforming The Gunners’ fortunes in the middle of the park.
The problem this season has been keeping the 27-year-old fit. This has meant that the likes of Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos and Mohamed Elneny have continued to play in a manner of combinations, whilst other rivals upgraded the central area. Consequently, widening a gap which the club had hoped to close.
Wherever Arsenal end up finishing this season, the summer must take what was good about the previous summer, continue in that vein and aim for even greater success. Finding a partner for Partey will enable an even more talented foundation from which to build attacks and defend from their opponents, in addition to providing quality cover should Partey’s injury issues persist.
Below are 5 realistic options Arsenal could look to bring in to partner the Ghanaian.
5 realistic options
Yves Bissouma – Brighton – Mali – 24 – Transfermakt value: £11.7 million
Yves Bissouma has been one of the most impressive Premier League players this season whilst performing at one of the league’s lesser clubs. Whilst Brighton have struggled this season, the Malian international has continued his fine form and done his utmost to drag the Seagulls to survival.
At 101 we produced a dedicated article surrounding the midfielder and explaining why it is so key that Arsenal should look to pursue a deal for him in the summer.
His passing, positional awareness and defensive ability combine to make him an established and competent player. He is a leader on the pitch and has the characteristics which Arsenal had been crying out for prior to the signing of Thomas Partey.
The added Premier League experience is a crucial bonus in signing Bissouma. For too long, Arsenal have not added quality talent from other Premier League sides. They have instead taken surplus talent like David Luiz, Danny Welbeck and Cedric. The club needs to progress and that can be achieved through the signing of proven quality from within their own division. Bissouma is a clear example of someone who be an upgrade.
Teun Koopmeiners – AZ Alkmaar – Netherlands – 23 – Transfermarkt value: £13.5 million
Teun Koopmeiners is one of a number of Dutch players coming through the Eredivisie who are highly rated and expected to move onto big things in the future. The AZ Alkmaar midfielder has now become part of the Dutch national side and is expected to push to be part of Frank De Boer’s Euro 2020 squad.
What Koopmeiners would provide Arsenal with is a player that can sit back and defend, remaining disciplined whilst orchestrating passes from the defensive third to the middle of the pitch. This would free up Thomas Partey to be more progressive and drag the ball forwards as he likes to do so often.
The Dutch midfielder is very good at turning over play, recovering the ball in key areas and making interceptions. His reading of the game is excellent, but it needs to be considering he lacks the pace in comparison to the other options on this list. However, as shown by Granit Xhaka’s improvement alongside Partey, when partnered with an energetic powerhouse, such as the Ghanaian, his partner’s pace is much less of a mitigating factor.
Koopmeiners is also a threat from set pieces which is an added bonus. Arsenal could look to invest in the growing potential from the Eredivisie and the AZ man would be a strong place to start.
Enock Mwepu – Red Bull Salzburg – Zambia – 23 – Transfermarkt value: £11.7 million
Enock Mwepu is likely the most left-field of players on the list. Playing at Red Bull Salzburg, it is unsurprising to see yet another African talent be discovered, developed and succeed at the club that has used the market of that continent so intelligently.
Mwepu has become a key figure for the side which has matured into a Champions League competitor season upon season. His tall frame in collaboration with his elegance on the ball leads to many similarities with Partey himself. He can play as a deeper midfielder, an 8 or even at right midfield, should the need call.
His versatility though is not the main strengths of his game. Mwepu can push his side into attacking positions whilst on the ball through his raw determination. His interchanges with teammates would allow him to slot straight into an Arsenal side who also love the idea of quick passing play.
Importantly though, Mwepu can also defend, and defend very well. He senses danger and eats up ground when tracking and closing opponents. Timing his challenges to win the ball, looking up immediately to assess his next play which is typically always with progression in mind.
Mwepu would of course be a risk having played the majority of his senior career against oppositions in the Austrian Bundesliga, but as shown in this analysis, his performances in the Champions League show his worth.
Joan Jordan – Sevilla – Spain – 26 – Transfermarkt value: £22.5 million
Arsenal have already been linked with a move to Joan Jordan, supposedly looking at a deal for the Sevilla midfielder in January. He is the most experienced of the players on the list, yet the man with the least international caps. Arguably expected considering he is Spanish, but it is surprising not to have seen him given a run out for La Roja considering his quality.
Since arriving in Seville from Eibar, Jordan has continued on the path he made for himself in the Basque country.He is a dominant midfielder who commands the middle third of the field. Since Ever Banega moved on from the club, Jordan’s passing was always going to be tested. Questions arose as to whether he could control the play in the absence of the Argentine and the simple answer to those queries was yes.
His technical ability is something which is somewhat understated and his confidence, despite his physicality, to squeeze himself and the ball out of tight situations through good movement and ball control is impressive.
Coming from Sevilla in his prime, he would cost a significant fee, likely upwards of the £30 million mark. However, like Partey has shown, a physical midfielder coming from La Liga can transition rapidly and Jordan is surely of the level to replicate that.
Konrad Laimer – RB Leipzig – Austria – 23 – Transfermarkt value: £23.4 million
The final pick is a risky one. Not down to Konrad Laimer’s quality, which is exceptional, but his current situation. Having missed the entirety of the 2020/21 season so far, having undergone surgery on a knee injury, He is now back in light training. However he is some way off a return to the field but it is likely he will recover before the end of the season.
Some players return from these injuries from where they left off, others simply do not. There is no way of knowing, but Laimer makes this list because the quality, should he return on par with his pre-injury stature, is up there with being one of the best central midfielders around. Laimer joined Leipzig, unsurprisingly, from sister club Salzburg. He had looked brilliant in Austria but immediately translated that to the European elite.
His control on the ball, progression of play and overall ability to play almost anywhere on the pitch make him a top class asset to any side. Expectantly, this kind of talent does not come cheap, but with Leipzig well stocked in midfield and with a business model of selling proudly, a deal could most probably be struck. The fee, maybe lessened by the recent injury, would still be significant however. Laimer is a risk, but maybe one worth taking for the quality he brings.
This article was edited by Robert Fosterman.
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