Thomas Partey: Midfield Tank Engine

Macho

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Less fuss, more forward thrust: Analysing how Thomas Partey improves Arsenal

GettyImages-1297110253-scaled-e1613490694898-1024x682.jpg

By James McNicholas

Your eyes tell you that when Thomas Partey plays, Arsenal move the ball quicker. Now, it seems, the numbers do, too. In Arsenal’s engine room, it is Partey who has turned the throttle.

At times this season, Arsenal have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. There have been halves when they have looked limp and lifeless — and others, such as the recent 4-2 victory over Leeds United, in which they have been dynamic and dangerous.

The integration of Emile Smith Rowe as a creative outlet was undoubtedly a turning point for this team, yet even since then, there have been occasions when Arsenal matches have been turgid affairs. Another key factor would appear to be the availability of summer signing Thomas Partey.

Since joining from Atletico Madrid for €50 million on the final day of the transfer window last October, Partey has only been fit enough to start nine Premier League games. When Partey plays, his impact appears transformative. But what is it the 27-year-old offers that makes him so important? How does he differ from Arsenal’s other midfield options? For this piece, The Athletic chose to study two very different halves of football Arsenal have produced — one with Partey, and one without.

It was important to pick two halves after Smith Rowe’s introduction to the team, as that fundamentally changed the manner in which Arsenal played. We chose the first halves of the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on January 14 and the 2-1 defeat to Wolves on February 2. Arsenal laboured against Palace but, while Mikel Arteta’s team ultimately lost at Molineux, they produced a scintillating opening half — one of their best to date.

The first half against Palace saw Arsenal have 61.7 per cent possession, but they converted that into just two shots. At Wolves, they had 54.5 per cent of possession in the opening 45 minutes, but were able to use that to fashion six attempts at goal.

One of the criticisms of Arsenal’s performance against Palace — and indeed many of their more underwhelming performances this season — has been their tendency to dally on the ball. It’s certainly the case that some of their playmakers seem to hold on to the ball before releasing it. To investigate this further, The Athletic has studied the performances of David Luiz and Granit Xhaka in both games, as well as Partey and his replacement against Palace, Dani Ceballos.


Although Xhaka is frequently criticised for being slow on the ball, these numbers show he is relatively efficient — and consistent — in how many touches he takes before moving possession on. There is a significant difference, however, between Ceballos and Partey, with the Ghanaian averaging one less touch of the ball before releasing it. In one instance against Palace, Ceballos took fully 11 touches before the ball reached a team-mate. Against Wolves, Partey never took more than five.

There is a striking difference too between the performances of David Luiz. In some ways, it is inevitable central defenders will have more touches — they operate in more space, and against low blocks tend to come under less pressure. However, the Wolves match shows that Luiz is capable of moving the ball quicker — and that Arsenal benefit when he does.

It helps to have players to pick out. Another aspect in which Partey improves Arsenal’s ability to progress the ball is through his positioning. Xhaka (34) and Ceballos (8) both have a tendency to want to drop deep to receive the ball — they are better with the game in front of them. This means they tend to play on a similar plane, which contributes to the tendency to play sideways passes. To an extent, Xhaka and Ceballos replicate each other.

Screenshot-2021-02-15-at-17.48.11-2.png


As this average position map shows, Partey (18) is prepared to receive the ball higher up the field. When he is paired with Xhaka, Arsenal’s double pivot play on the slant. This gives Xhaka and Luiz an early option for a forward pass.

Crucially, there were more forward passes against Wolves and, again, much of that was down to Partey: 40 per cent of his passes went forward, as opposed to 24 per cent of Ceballos’ against Palace. Once again, Xhaka’s numbers are pretty consistent, but there’s a notable improvement at Molineux from Luiz. After playing 23.5 per cent of his passes forward against Palace, he was able to play 32.4 per cent forward against Wolves.

It’s not just passing that means Partey makes Arsenal more progressive — it’s his ability to dribble the ball, too. Of Arsenal’s four options to play in the double pivot, Opta stats suggest he attempts the most dribbles per 90 mins, and has a success rate almost as good as Ceballos.


Interestingly, with a couple more appearances under their belt, both Martin Ödegaard and Joe Willock would also appear in this table.

When Arsenal first sat down with Partey to discuss the prospect of a move to London, the player made clear that he felt he had more to offer than he’d been able to show in the defensive role he played for Atletico Madrid. That much is already apparent. Ceballos and Xhaka showed signs against Leeds that their partnership is improving, but Partey makes Arsenal significantly more direct and dynamic. For Arsenal fans, his return can’t come soon enough.





*table images don't work within spoilers
 

Big Poppa

Established Member
Trusted
Less fuss, more forward thrust: Analysing how Thomas Partey improves Arsenal

GettyImages-1297110253-scaled-e1613490694898-1024x682.jpg

By James McNicholas

Your eyes tell you that when Thomas Partey plays, Arsenal move the ball quicker. Now, it seems, the numbers do, too. In Arsenal’s engine room, it is Partey who has turned the throttle.

At times this season, Arsenal have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. There have been halves when they have looked limp and lifeless — and others, such as the recent 4-2 victory over Leeds United, in which they have been dynamic and dangerous.

The integration of Emile Smith Rowe as a creative outlet was undoubtedly a turning point for this team, yet even since then, there have been occasions when Arsenal matches have been turgid affairs. Another key factor would appear to be the availability of summer signing Thomas Partey.

Since joining from Atletico Madrid for €50 million on the final day of the transfer window last October, Partey has only been fit enough to start nine Premier League games. When Partey plays, his impact appears transformative. But what is it the 27-year-old offers that makes him so important? How does he differ from Arsenal’s other midfield options? For this piece, The Athletic chose to study two very different halves of football Arsenal have produced — one with Partey, and one without.

It was important to pick two halves after Smith Rowe’s introduction to the team, as that fundamentally changed the manner in which Arsenal played. We chose the first halves of the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on January 14 and the 2-1 defeat to Wolves on February 2. Arsenal laboured against Palace but, while Mikel Arteta’s team ultimately lost at Molineux, they produced a scintillating opening half — one of their best to date.

The first half against Palace saw Arsenal have 61.7 per cent possession, but they converted that into just two shots. At Wolves, they had 54.5 per cent of possession in the opening 45 minutes, but were able to use that to fashion six attempts at goal.

One of the criticisms of Arsenal’s performance against Palace — and indeed many of their more underwhelming performances this season — has been their tendency to dally on the ball. It’s certainly the case that some of their playmakers seem to hold on to the ball before releasing it. To investigate this further, The Athletic has studied the performances of David Luiz and Granit Xhaka in both games, as well as Partey and his replacement against Palace, Dani Ceballos.


Although Xhaka is frequently criticised for being slow on the ball, these numbers show he is relatively efficient — and consistent — in how many touches he takes before moving possession on. There is a significant difference, however, between Ceballos and Partey, with the Ghanaian averaging one less touch of the ball before releasing it. In one instance against Palace, Ceballos took fully 11 touches before the ball reached a team-mate. Against Wolves, Partey never took more than five.

There is a striking difference too between the performances of David Luiz. In some ways, it is inevitable central defenders will have more touches — they operate in more space, and against low blocks tend to come under less pressure. However, the Wolves match shows that Luiz is capable of moving the ball quicker — and that Arsenal benefit when he does.

It helps to have players to pick out. Another aspect in which Partey improves Arsenal’s ability to progress the ball is through his positioning. Xhaka (34) and Ceballos (8) both have a tendency to want to drop deep to receive the ball — they are better with the game in front of them. This means they tend to play on a similar plane, which contributes to the tendency to play sideways passes. To an extent, Xhaka and Ceballos replicate each other.

Screenshot-2021-02-15-at-17.48.11-2.png


As this average position map shows, Partey (18) is prepared to receive the ball higher up the field. When he is paired with Xhaka, Arsenal’s double pivot play on the slant. This gives Xhaka and Luiz an early option for a forward pass.

Crucially, there were more forward passes against Wolves and, again, much of that was down to Partey: 40 per cent of his passes went forward, as opposed to 24 per cent of Ceballos’ against Palace. Once again, Xhaka’s numbers are pretty consistent, but there’s a notable improvement at Molineux from Luiz. After playing 23.5 per cent of his passes forward against Palace, he was able to play 32.4 per cent forward against Wolves.

It’s not just passing that means Partey makes Arsenal more progressive — it’s his ability to dribble the ball, too. Of Arsenal’s four options to play in the double pivot, Opta stats suggest he attempts the most dribbles per 90 mins, and has a success rate almost as good as Ceballos.


Interestingly, with a couple more appearances under their belt, both Martin Ødegaard and Joe Willock would also appear in this table.

When Arsenal first sat down with Partey to discuss the prospect of a move to London, the player made clear that he felt he had more to offer than he’d been able to show in the defensive role he played for Atletico Madrid. That much is already apparent. Ceballos and Xhaka showed signs against Leeds that their partnership is improving, but Partey makes Arsenal significantly more direct and dynamic. For Arsenal fans, his return can’t come soon enough.





*table images don't work within spoilers

This is why I wanted Willock to get more chances to develop in that position. Elneny does this too.
 

Trilly

Full-Time Respecter Of Women
Trusted
Partey needs to bring the locs back. They were his source of power.

Could have called this transfer being a massive flop if I knew he had cut his hair. Smh.
 

Trilly

Full-Time Respecter Of Women
Trusted
Less fuss, more forward thrust: Analysing how Thomas Partey improves Arsenal

GettyImages-1297110253-scaled-e1613490694898-1024x682.jpg

By James McNicholas

Your eyes tell you that when Thomas Partey plays, Arsenal move the ball quicker. Now, it seems, the numbers do, too. In Arsenal’s engine room, it is Partey who has turned the throttle.

At times this season, Arsenal have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. There have been halves when they have looked limp and lifeless — and others, such as the recent 4-2 victory over Leeds United, in which they have been dynamic and dangerous.

The integration of Emile Smith Rowe as a creative outlet was undoubtedly a turning point for this team, yet even since then, there have been occasions when Arsenal matches have been turgid affairs. Another key factor would appear to be the availability of summer signing Thomas Partey.

Since joining from Atletico Madrid for €50 million on the final day of the transfer window last October, Partey has only been fit enough to start nine Premier League games. When Partey plays, his impact appears transformative. But what is it the 27-year-old offers that makes him so important? How does he differ from Arsenal’s other midfield options? For this piece, The Athletic chose to study two very different halves of football Arsenal have produced — one with Partey, and one without.

It was important to pick two halves after Smith Rowe’s introduction to the team, as that fundamentally changed the manner in which Arsenal played. We chose the first halves of the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on January 14 and the 2-1 defeat to Wolves on February 2. Arsenal laboured against Palace but, while Mikel Arteta’s team ultimately lost at Molineux, they produced a scintillating opening half — one of their best to date.

The first half against Palace saw Arsenal have 61.7 per cent possession, but they converted that into just two shots. At Wolves, they had 54.5 per cent of possession in the opening 45 minutes, but were able to use that to fashion six attempts at goal.

One of the criticisms of Arsenal’s performance against Palace — and indeed many of their more underwhelming performances this season — has been their tendency to dally on the ball. It’s certainly the case that some of their playmakers seem to hold on to the ball before releasing it. To investigate this further, The Athletic has studied the performances of David Luiz and Granit Xhaka in both games, as well as Partey and his replacement against Palace, Dani Ceballos.


Although Xhaka is frequently criticised for being slow on the ball, these numbers show he is relatively efficient — and consistent — in how many touches he takes before moving possession on. There is a significant difference, however, between Ceballos and Partey, with the Ghanaian averaging one less touch of the ball before releasing it. In one instance against Palace, Ceballos took fully 11 touches before the ball reached a team-mate. Against Wolves, Partey never took more than five.

There is a striking difference too between the performances of David Luiz. In some ways, it is inevitable central defenders will have more touches — they operate in more space, and against low blocks tend to come under less pressure. However, the Wolves match shows that Luiz is capable of moving the ball quicker — and that Arsenal benefit when he does.

It helps to have players to pick out. Another aspect in which Partey improves Arsenal’s ability to progress the ball is through his positioning. Xhaka (34) and Ceballos (8) both have a tendency to want to drop deep to receive the ball — they are better with the game in front of them. This means they tend to play on a similar plane, which contributes to the tendency to play sideways passes. To an extent, Xhaka and Ceballos replicate each other.

Screenshot-2021-02-15-at-17.48.11-2.png


As this average position map shows, Partey (18) is prepared to receive the ball higher up the field. When he is paired with Xhaka, Arsenal’s double pivot play on the slant. This gives Xhaka and Luiz an early option for a forward pass.

Crucially, there were more forward passes against Wolves and, again, much of that was down to Partey: 40 per cent of his passes went forward, as opposed to 24 per cent of Ceballos’ against Palace. Once again, Xhaka’s numbers are pretty consistent, but there’s a notable improvement at Molineux from Luiz. After playing 23.5 per cent of his passes forward against Palace, he was able to play 32.4 per cent forward against Wolves.

It’s not just passing that means Partey makes Arsenal more progressive — it’s his ability to dribble the ball, too. Of Arsenal’s four options to play in the double pivot, Opta stats suggest he attempts the most dribbles per 90 mins, and has a success rate almost as good as Ceballos.


Interestingly, with a couple more appearances under their belt, both Martin Ødegaard and Joe Willock would also appear in this table.

When Arsenal first sat down with Partey to discuss the prospect of a move to London, the player made clear that he felt he had more to offer than he’d been able to show in the defensive role he played for Atletico Madrid. That much is already apparent. Ceballos and Xhaka showed signs against Leeds that their partnership is improving, but Partey makes Arsenal significantly more direct and dynamic. For Arsenal fans, his return can’t come soon enough.





*table images don't work within spoilers
Wow look at that, another Xhaka myth busted. :lol:
 

Camron

Established Member
Trusted
Less fuss, more forward thrust: Analysing how Thomas Partey improves Arsenal

GettyImages-1297110253-scaled-e1613490694898-1024x682.jpg

By James McNicholas

Your eyes tell you that when Thomas Partey plays, Arsenal move the ball quicker. Now, it seems, the numbers do, too. In Arsenal’s engine room, it is Partey who has turned the throttle.

At times this season, Arsenal have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. There have been halves when they have looked limp and lifeless — and others, such as the recent 4-2 victory over Leeds United, in which they have been dynamic and dangerous.

The integration of Emile Smith Rowe as a creative outlet was undoubtedly a turning point for this team, yet even since then, there have been occasions when Arsenal matches have been turgid affairs. Another key factor would appear to be the availability of summer signing Thomas Partey.

Since joining from Atletico Madrid for €50 million on the final day of the transfer window last October, Partey has only been fit enough to start nine Premier League games. When Partey plays, his impact appears transformative. But what is it the 27-year-old offers that makes him so important? How does he differ from Arsenal’s other midfield options? For this piece, The Athletic chose to study two very different halves of football Arsenal have produced — one with Partey, and one without.

It was important to pick two halves after Smith Rowe’s introduction to the team, as that fundamentally changed the manner in which Arsenal played. We chose the first halves of the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on January 14 and the 2-1 defeat to Wolves on February 2. Arsenal laboured against Palace but, while Mikel Arteta’s team ultimately lost at Molineux, they produced a scintillating opening half — one of their best to date.

The first half against Palace saw Arsenal have 61.7 per cent possession, but they converted that into just two shots. At Wolves, they had 54.5 per cent of possession in the opening 45 minutes, but were able to use that to fashion six attempts at goal.

One of the criticisms of Arsenal’s performance against Palace — and indeed many of their more underwhelming performances this season — has been their tendency to dally on the ball. It’s certainly the case that some of their playmakers seem to hold on to the ball before releasing it. To investigate this further, The Athletic has studied the performances of David Luiz and Granit Xhaka in both games, as well as Partey and his replacement against Palace, Dani Ceballos.


Although Xhaka is frequently criticised for being slow on the ball, these numbers show he is relatively efficient — and consistent — in how many touches he takes before moving possession on. There is a significant difference, however, between Ceballos and Partey, with the Ghanaian averaging one less touch of the ball before releasing it. In one instance against Palace, Ceballos took fully 11 touches before the ball reached a team-mate. Against Wolves, Partey never took more than five.

There is a striking difference too between the performances of David Luiz. In some ways, it is inevitable central defenders will have more touches — they operate in more space, and against low blocks tend to come under less pressure. However, the Wolves match shows that Luiz is capable of moving the ball quicker — and that Arsenal benefit when he does.

It helps to have players to pick out. Another aspect in which Partey improves Arsenal’s ability to progress the ball is through his positioning. Xhaka (34) and Ceballos (8) both have a tendency to want to drop deep to receive the ball — they are better with the game in front of them. This means they tend to play on a similar plane, which contributes to the tendency to play sideways passes. To an extent, Xhaka and Ceballos replicate each other.

Screenshot-2021-02-15-at-17.48.11-2.png


As this average position map shows, Partey (18) is prepared to receive the ball higher up the field. When he is paired with Xhaka, Arsenal’s double pivot play on the slant. This gives Xhaka and Luiz an early option for a forward pass.

Crucially, there were more forward passes against Wolves and, again, much of that was down to Partey: 40 per cent of his passes went forward, as opposed to 24 per cent of Ceballos’ against Palace. Once again, Xhaka’s numbers are pretty consistent, but there’s a notable improvement at Molineux from Luiz. After playing 23.5 per cent of his passes forward against Palace, he was able to play 32.4 per cent forward against Wolves.

It’s not just passing that means Partey makes Arsenal more progressive — it’s his ability to dribble the ball, too. Of Arsenal’s four options to play in the double pivot, Opta stats suggest he attempts the most dribbles per 90 mins, and has a success rate almost as good as Ceballos.


Interestingly, with a couple more appearances under their belt, both Martin Ødegaard and Joe Willock would also appear in this table.

When Arsenal first sat down with Partey to discuss the prospect of a move to London, the player made clear that he felt he had more to offer than he’d been able to show in the defensive role he played for Atletico Madrid. That much is already apparent. Ceballos and Xhaka showed signs against Leeds that their partnership is improving, but Partey makes Arsenal significantly more direct and dynamic. For Arsenal fans, his return can’t come soon enough.





*table images don't work within spoilers
FFS, I was legit trying to scroll sideways in those tables for half a minute.
 

Red London

Anti-Simp Culture
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The amount of times I've had to find the Partey thread on the second page of threads this season is sad. Injuries keep killing his and our momentum.

Any updates on a return?
 

Red London

Anti-Simp Culture
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Wow look at that, another Xhaka myth busted. :lol:
In terms of the eye test, do you actually rate Xhaka? In my opinion he's only up to standards for a team tryna improve when he's next to Partey. He looked a different man next to him, and it looked like he has carried that confidence with him albeit slowly fading away again. It puzzles me that people think he should be starting here long term based on his last few years at the club, it was clearly time to switch things up but maybe Partey revitilises him. I still want a better CM signed in the summer though personally.
 

Macho

Has Trust Issues With Processes
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It puzzles me that people think he should be starting here long term based on his last few years at the club, it was clearly time to switch things up but maybe Partey revitilises him. I still want a better CM signed in the summer though personally.
He should be starting here based on existing personnel only. Whether people like it or not, he's our 2nd best around central mid. Easily.
 

Riou

A-M's Resident Jobber
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Would say Dani is slightly better than Granit, but think Xhaka being more defensive allows Partey more freedom, plus Ceballos isn't our player...Partey-Xhaka is the way to go right now.
 

Red London

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He should be starting here based on existing personnel only. Whether people like it or not, he's our 2nd best around central mid. Easily.
Yeah based on what he has shown recently and due to his competition he is definitely the second best CM at the club right now. But in my opinion he shouldn't be our second best CM anymore come the summer. I put a CM, attacker and RB as top priority signings in the summer.

Also, I'd argue that due to Xhaka and Elneny's game being risen playing next to Partey, surely we should see how Ceballos fairs. I actually think they suit eachother the most for expansive football at least. Our midfielders were all suffering playing next to quite similar players/skillsets. So far Xhaka and Elneny have profited from playing next to a confident, technical, strong and pacey player. I don't see any reason why Ceballos doesn't, and maybe it can tell us about what kind of CM we should be signing in the summer.
 

Red London

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Would say Dani is slightly better than Granit, but think Xhaka being more defensive allows Partey more freedom, plus Ceballos isn't our player...Partey-Xhaka is the way to go right now.
Yeah for me they are quite similar in terms of how good they are. I would basically invest time in the one who is our actual player I suppose. Saying that though Ceballos has some unrealised potential while Xhaka has mostly shown what he can do, even though he has improved next to Partey.

For me Xhaka has convinced me since Xmas that he would be an adequate back up player. If we have two good CMs then if one gets injured bringing Xhaka in isnt an issue. The issue arises when we only have one really good CM so when he's injured we have Xhaka playing next to an Elneny/Guendouzi/Ceballos which just looks mid table ability and balance wise for me.
 

AbouCuéllar

Well-Known Member
Also, I'd argue that due to Xhaka and Elneny's game being risen playing next to Partey, surely we should see how Ceballos fairs.

Indeed.

Xhaka is having a really good season/ run of form, tbf, so it's hard to sit him.

But I would love to see the football that Thomas-Ceballos Saka-Ödegaard-ESR Auba would produce. Ceballos is still our best CM at eliminating defenders + incisiveness and I would like to see Mikel go with this lineup at the very least against sides that play a low-block or cede possession. (If Thomas were fit for Thursday, for example, I would want that lineup)
 

Red London

Anti-Simp Culture
Trusted
Indeed.

Xhaka is having a really good season/ run of form, tbf, so it's hard to sit him.

But I would love to see the football that Thomas-Ceballos Saka-Ødegaard-ESR Auba would produce. Ceballos is still our best CM at eliminating defenders + incisiveness and I wouldreng like to see Mikel go with this lineup at the very least against sides that play a low-block or cede possession. (If Thomas were fit for Thursday, for example, I would want that lineup)
I just feel like Ceballos Partey Ödegaard would literally be a world apart from what we've been used to for the last 18 months. All 3 would be very comfortable on the ball, and would be very balanced from Partey's presence (Ceballos isn't a shabby defender when hes playing well anyway).

That effect Partey had on Xhaka was crazy, its like all his deficiencies got muted and his strengths amplified. If Ceballos gets this kind of effect then we could have quite an interesting side for the rest of the season at least.
 

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