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Thomas Partey returning at perfect time as Arsenal continue revival under Mikel Arteta

Simon Collings
·4 min read
 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

As cliche as it sounds, the sight of Thomas Partey in an Arsenal shirt against Crystal Palace will really feel like a new signing for Mikel Arteta.

Arsenal may not have spent any money during the current transfer window, but the return of Partey from injury is just as good.

Big things were naturally expected of the midfielder when he arrived on transfer deadline day in October from Atletico Madrid for £45million.

Injury, however, has hampered Partey’s start to life in north London and he has made just six appearances so far for Arsenal, with the last of those coming against Tottenham at the start of December, when he was forced to limp off before half-time with a thigh issue.

“It’s incredible that we are in January, we signed him in [October], and he has only twice played the full 90 minutes in the Premier League,” says Arteta. “We haven’t really seen the impact we believe he could have on the team.”

Arsenal have had just a glimpse of what Partey could offer them so far, with their victory at Manchester United in November the best example of that.

The 27-year-old was brilliant that day, completely nullifying United’s midfield, and Roy Keane - who is not an easy man to draw praise from - was glowing about him.

“I wish he was in the United midfield,” he said on Sky Sports. “He’s big, strong and aggressive - and he can pass it forward. He can deal with the ball.

“I had my battles with [Patrick] Vieira and I think this kid has got a chance of matching what Patrick used to do.”

Partey certainly does have the ability to transform Arsenal’s midfield and that is what will excite Arteta. The Ghanaian brings dynamism and strength to the table, but it is supported by his ability on the ball.

Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Arsenal FC via Getty Images

That was perhaps overlooked during Partey’s time at Atletico, however he has the talent to influence the game in both boxes.

Arteta has only seen that in brief moments this season but he is convinced by what the midfielder brings.

“Absolutely, and obviously because we are able to watch him in training, and see who he is as well,” he says. “I think he’s got a different presence, he brings something different to the team. He makes players better around him and that’s a big, big quality.”

Partey helping others to raise their game certainly rings true when you look back to that win at Old Trafford.

Mohamed Elneny put in arguably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt that afternoon and you can’t help but think Partey had a big role to play in that.

Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Arsenal FC via Getty Images

He has that star quality and aura which lifts a team and, even during his time injured, he has made an impression.

“It’s not just about his talent, it’s not just about his physicality, it’s who he is as a person,” says Arteta.

“He was so willing for months to be joining us. He really wants to be a part of it and knows how much he can help.

“Then he had to deal with the injuries, with the lockdown and moving into a new place and that’s been tough for him.

“That’s why sometimes he was rushing and wanted to do everything straightaway – because he’s so willing to come back, he doesn’t want to be alone at home.

“He’s in a really good place, he’s settled really well in the dressing room, around the staff. He’s a special character and hopefully we can see him on the pitch finally.”

Partey’s return should come on Thursday against Crystal Palace and, in truth, his spell out of the team and his subsequent return seems well timed.

The midfielder has missed what has been a turbulent time for Arsenal and instead he returns to a side on more solid foundations.

Had Partey made his comeback last month, you feel as though he would almost be charged with somehow fixing every problem - instead of focusing on his own game.

Now, though, with Arsenal seemingly back on the right track under Arteta, the Ghanaian can return to push them further forward by concentrating on his own performance.

Arsenal have had to be patient for Partey to return, but the wait will have been worth it.

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