27-year-old Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey is reported to have been liaising with Arsenal over a prospective move to North London since the 2018/19 campaign.

Thomas Partey (SOURCE: Photo, Анна Джалалян, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Thomas Partey (SOURCE: Photo, Анна Джалалян, CC BY-SA 3.0)

That’s according to a new report from The Athletic, which claims Partey and the Gunners held a series of “secret meetings” to thrash out his long-term future at the Emirates.

The revelations from journalist James McNicholas suggest that the club had pinpointed Partey to become a mainstay of the Arsenal midfield at least two years ago. Club officials and Partey’s representatives are said to have held several “clandestine meetings” in Madrid during the 2018/19 campaign, during which Partey is thought to have outlined his desire to anchor as a deep-lying midfielder for the Gunners.

Partey is also said to have told the Gunners’ ex-head of international scouting Francis Cagigao that he harboured aspirations to play alongside Granit Xhaka as part of a two-man ‘screen’ of deep-lying midfielders. 12 months ago, Xhaka’s future at Arsenal appeared to be in severe doubt as fans and coaching staff alike grew frustrated with his inconsistent displays. However, linking up with Partey could now be a realistic prospect given that Arteta appears to have given the Swiss international a new lease of life.

The Ghanaian is also thought to have voiced his self-belief that he can make a positive impact on the Gunners side further up the pitch too. Partey has been the mainstay of the Atletico Madrid midfield, as part of a system that is notoriously unambitious given the defensive mindset of boss Diego Simeone. During these early-stage discussions with Arsenal, Partey remarked that he would like the ability to express himself more – something which Mikel Arteta will surely allow.

Partey’s former Ghanaian international coach and former Premier League boss Avram Grant has spoken out in favour of the move, insisting that he is “just what [Arsenal] needed”. Grant described Partey as someone that can “win the ball and play the right pass forward” and waxed lyrical about his “tactical discipline” as well as his “committed” nature. Partey’s recent stats would agree with Grant’s view, with a dependable average pass success rate of 83.2%. Although his signing appears to be a major missing piece in the Gunners’ jigsaw, it’s done little to improve their EPL odds in the football outrights just yet, with Arsenal sitting behind Everton as sixth favourites for the 2020/21 title.

It’s taken 15 years, but have Arsenal finally replaced Patrick Vieira?

Patrick Vieira (SOURCE: Photo, Steindy, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Patrick Vieira (SOURCE: Photo, Steindy, CC BY-SA 3.0)

There is every indication that Arsenal’s midfield presence will be boosted by Thomas Partey in a similar vein to that of former icon Patrick Vieira. The legendary Frenchman used to roam the midfield in tandem with Brazilian Gilberto Silva, dominating physical duels and providing the perfect platform for the Gunners’ forward line to attack.

Since Partey’s arrival has been announced, Edu, the club’s technical director, has intimated that the Ghanaian could yet have what it takes to assume Vieira’s midfield mantle. Edu described him as being “a leader on and off the pitch”. The Brazilian was also quick to mention Partey’s “all-round game and positive aggressive style”. All of which bears the hallmarks of Patrick Vieira at his pomp. Meanwhile former Arsenal full-back Armand Traore also said that Partey “reminds [him] a bit of Gilberto Silva or Vieira” in the way that he can “go out there and have a go”.

Ironically, Partey could have been an Arsenal player six years ago. Sacked scout Francis Cagigao recommended Partey to the Gunners whilst playing on loan with Spanish outfit Almeria. He insisted to former boss Arsene Wenger that he would be tailor-made for the Arsenal midfield. Cagigao reiterated Partey’s qualities to Unai Emery back in 2019 too, but Emery and Sven Mislintat deemed any prospective move too expensive given the Spaniard’s aspirations to sign a new winger in the shape of Nicolas Pepe.

The benefit of Arsenal meeting Partey’s £45 million release clause now is that they are signing a proven talent in European football. He has been the fulcrum of Atletico Madrid’s continental success in recent years and now he will have the chance to flourish at the Emirates – even if it’s six years later than it could have been.