For all the exciting young talent that’s emerging at Arsenal, the sheer lack of quality at the heart of the Gunners’ midfield is – unbelievably – still a problem for the club.
Ever since those lofty days of Patrick Vieira, Arsenal have been crying out for an imposing and dominant midfielder to drag them back up the table and challenging, really challenging, for the Premier League title.
For too long have Gunners fans sat back and watched as the likes of Mathieu Flamini and Granit Xhaka have lined up in their midfield, while rivals such as Manchester City boast the likes of Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne.
Xhaka remains a constant source of frustration – despite his goal in midweek – while Mattéo Guendouzi is rumoured for the exit door, making the Arsenal midfield in the most dire need for reinforcements in well over 20 years.
That may appear hyperbolic, but one glance at their midfield options and it’s easy to see why Mikel Arteta’s side are where they are in the league table – 40 points behind leaders Liverpool.
Although one player will not be able to bridge that gap on his own – even if Bruno Fernandes is appearing to do so at Manchester United – the signing of a certain Thomas Partey might be the first step in the right direction for Arteta and co.
The Ghanian midfielder had been somewhat on the periphery at Atlético Madrid in his early days in the Spanish capital, yet has really stamped his authority on Los Rojiblancos’ midfield of late.
With manager Diego Simeone steering his side through something of a transitional period – with past heroes such as Gabi no longer at the club – Partey has been a real driving force in the centre of the park.
The 27-year-old strength in the tackle is an obvious appeal to a Gunners side that has been walked over too many times in recent years, yet his quality on the ball is just as impressive.
He may not necessarily be the man to deliver a goal – with only two to his name in La Liga this season – but with the likes of Eddie Nketiah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leading the line, there should be no problems in the goalscoring department.
That’s not to say he is not willing to join the attack or drive his side forward, but it’s his defensive side of the game which is desperately needed at the Emirates.
The often embarrassing nature of Arsenal’s defence means the presence of a physical and solid buffer in front of the back four is an absolute must ahead of next season.
David Luiz, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi may all look pretty on the ball, but their defensive shortcomings have been laid bare this season all too often – lets not mention that Manchester City game.
With Arteta unlikely to strengthen his backline – as William Saliba is set to return, while Luiz and Pablo Mari recently secured their futures at the club – then he will no doubt need something of a human shield in midfield to protect that shaky defence.
Whether or not Partey will sign for the Gunners is another matter, but his father has already revealed that anyone who triggers his €50m release clause will be in with a chance to sign the defensive midfielder.
The upcoming COVID-19 impacted window will no doubt severely inhibit Arsenal from completing any major signings, yet they have already reportedly offered to pay Partey’s release clause in instalments.
It may not appear the priority at the moment as the club continues to try and tie Aubameyang down to a new deal, but splashing out on the Atlético man would no doubt be a worthwhile investment.
With what seems like the right man in charge and a heap of talented youngsters, Arsenal are slowly heading in the right direction. By signing Thomas Partey, however, they might be able to do it a little bit quicker.