Mikel has got his man. Now he can play football the Arseteta Way. He has a vision and he knows what he needs: he has got it now.
Signing super-talent Saka was key – the biggest Arsenal talent since Cesc. Getting Willian was shrewd – free and PL/CL experience. Auba staying was a statement – it meant that Mikel’s vision was mesmerising. Gabriel the Rock was another vital purchase. But now he really can get this Partey started.
Some will dream that Ozil will somehow reappear now and will get back in the hole from the one he dug for himself, but I think football has moved on. We don’t need a supersalesman, we need commercially minded, multi-skilled account managers. Everybody can play a key pass, produce an assist and score a goal up-front, and we need that unpredictability, that extra dimension.
For me, the issue is not that we did not have a creative player up-front of (former)Ozilesque or KdBruine-esque quality, but the lack of pressure and numbers in and around the opposition’s box. We sat too deep and did not push up enough, leaving the attacking moves to the ‘specialists’. The game v the Blades showed this very clearly. It was dire in the first half, but then we pushed up in the second half and soon the chances came. Bellerin had the assists, Auba had THE key pass for our first goal, Saka and Pepe scored. The much patronized Elneny had half a role in these goals too.
I grew up watching the Ajax machine in full swing: everybody could score, assist or play the key pass. Total Football. And then there was Wengerball when we had the perfect balance ourselves: goals, key passes and assists from everywhere. It was party football and the opponent did not know how to stop us. I reckon Arteta wants to return this to the home of football.
Partey will give Arteta options to tweak the formation per game but, most importantly, it will give us also the opportunity to push up and not worry too much about the space we leave behind. This will not happen overnight of course. Partey’s impact may not be really felt till come February. Evolution takes time. Key to all of this is his mobility, intelligence, excellent passing ability and athleticism. He will help us to better connect defence with midfield and midfield with attack. If we then dare to push up and play more in the opponent’s half…. we should see real progress with more chances and goals, and better football.
I know there are still some Xhaka-haters out there, but I have got to disappoint you: Partey will not replace Granit but help him to be the beast of a midfield-organiser he is. We will see the very best now of Xhaka:
Partey will allow Xhaka to push up and spray his one-touch passes where they can do most damage – as he does for the Swiss national team so often (watch him v Spain and Germany this fortnight!). With our strong use of the wings we need to get the ball there quickly. Xhaka loves this. Partey can be that holding midfielder in a 4-1-2-3 formation that allows not one but two to play in front of him. Willian was also sold Mikel’s vision, and I expect that this included him playing more centrally. But Partey is also a good passer of the ball, short and long, so Arteta has that added dimension in midfield. I can also see Xhaka play the deeper role and Partey and Ceballos play in front of him. I have salivated all over my jumper now:
But I can also see us stick to 3-4-3 this season as it makes best use of Luiz’s leadership skills without him being exposed too much. We have an army of CBs in the team so we may as well use them! It would make sense as the team is used to this formation and we have really good quality players in all positions – in fact we have two for each position (GK is still a guess, though). And the likes of AMN, Eddie, Chambers, Mari, Kola, Nelson, ESR etc will also put further ‘good pressure’ on this squad. Once again, it is of course key to push up the team and play much more compact in the opposition’s half.
The big point is that Partey will give Arteta options and we will now see the best from the likes of Xhaka, Laca and Saka as well as Luiz. Let’s give it some time but boy this looks promising!