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20/21 First Team General Transfers

Arsenal Sign Thomas Partey

Arsenal have announced the signing of Thomas Partey from Atlético Madrid for £45.4m, after activating his release clause early in the afternoon of transfer deadline day. Partey underwent a medical in Madrid.

The Ghanian international midfielder has been the subject of prolonged interest from Arsenal for a long time, even as far back as when Partey was with Almería on loan from Atlético Madrid, where he was scouted extensively by former Arsenal scout Francis Cagigao.

Partey was heavily advocated by former Arsenal head-coach Unai Emery, however, the player’s release clause and Atlético Madrid’s unwillingness to negotiate meant that Arsenal’s attention shifted elsewhere, namely in the form of Kieran Tierney and Nicolas Pépé.

The signing of Partey is likely to be a source of great comfort to Arsenal fans, following the departures of Mattéo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira on loan. Arsenal fans had also grown increasingly restless with Arsenal’s transfer business, following a failed attempt to sign Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, with the club unwilling to meet the French side’s £54.5m valuation and the news that the aforementioned Guendouzi and Torreira would be leaving the club.

Arsenal activated Partey’s release clause Monday afternoon.

Partey is exactly the kind of player that Arsenal have been needing for a while now and while it was initially thought that Lucas Torreira would be able to fill that role, unfortunately, the Uruguayan international was not a good fit for Arsenal’s system, especially once the continued exile of Mesut Özil led to the mismanagement of Torreira under Emery.

As with most transfers, Arsenal have played their cards exceptionally close to their chest regarding Partey’s potential arrival, with constant links to FC Porto’s Danilo Pereira (now on loan at Paris Saint Germain) and Lille’s Boubakary Soumaré being floated in the press, but in reality, Partey was always Arsenal’s number one target.

Partey’s situation at Atlético was always considered to be somewhat precarious, given the release clause in his contract, however, Atlético Madrid were reportedly scrambling to secure Partey to new terms at the club and increase the release clause. Under Spanish employment law and football regulations, all players must have a release clause specified in their contract, so Atlético were looking to increase the clause to ward off potential suitors.

For his part, Partey was interested in remaining with Atlético Madrid and extending his deal, however, Partey’s desire to join Arsenal and Mikel Arteta was greater. The Ghanian international had reportedly been “desperate to join Arsenal” last season, though the move never materialised.

Partey playing against Arsenal in the Europa League in 2018 for Atlético Madrid.

Though generally considered to be a central-defensive midfielder, he is also considered to be a box-to-box midfielder and his stats make for interesting reading. Last season, Partey recorded an average of 2.2 successful dribbles per-90 minutes in La Liga, meanwhile, Arsenal’s midfield foursome of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira, Mattéo Guendouzi and Dani Ceballos recording 0.9, 1,1, 1.0 and 1.6 respectively.

Though Partey’s passing rate of 84% is a slight cause for concern, he makes up for this with defensive contributions of 2.5 tackles per-90 minutes, which was only bettered by Dani Ceballos, who averaged 2.7 per 90. Partey also boasted a 69.4% tackle success rate and an interception rate of 1.6 per-90.

Given Atlético Madrid’s more defensive dispensation, it is somewhat surprising to see the more defensive-minded Partey finish the 19/20 La Liga season with an expected goals (xG) rate of 1.72. Partey ended last season with 3 goals in 35 games; taking 32 shots, 8 of which were on target. Despite registering no assists with Atlético last season, Partey still ended with an expected assists (xA) rate of 1.15.

One area of Partey’s game that may need changing is his discipline. Partey ended last season with 13 yellow cards in La Liga, from 48 fouls made, though he avoided in red cards in the league.

Rumours swirled late last week that fellow Premier League club Chelsea had considered Partey as an alternative to Declan Rice, their primary target, however, no talks between Chelsea or Partey’s representatives ever took place. Arsenal fans can now rest easy as the transfer window draws to a close and the club has landed its top target. The club’s focus now turns to the impending trip to Manchester City, for which, Mikel Arteta will be hoping that Partey is available for.

Partey will wear the number 18 shirt, which was last worn by Nacho Monreal, before his departure last season.

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