For many years, Arsenal fans have prayed, cried, demanded and hoped for a midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira, the towering Frenchman capable of bossing a game at the middle, whether home or away, and against any opposition.
A midfield maestro that never hides and can singlehandedly turn the tide of a game to his side’s favour.
Many defensive midfielders have come to the Emirates Stadium with the gunners faithful always having their hopes of them filling the boots left by the enigmatic Frenchman dashed. In comes Thomas Teye Partey.
The Ghanaian International joined the gunners from Athletico Madrid on the last day of the summer transfer window after they triggered his £45m release clause, to the chagrin of his former club and fans who did not hide their displeasure.
He made a cameo appearance in his first game as an Arsenal player against Man City which ended in a 1-0 loss, courtesy of a Raheem Sterling goal. In his first start for Arsenal away at Rapid Wien in the Europa League, the midfielder made his presence felt with a splendid performance, to the delight of the fans.
His performance even got former Bayern, Man United and Man City midfielder, Owen Hargreaves waxing lyrical about him, describing it as “one of the best debuts”.
“Thomas Partey had one of the best debuts I’ve ever seen, honestly. He’s ran the whole game and you can tell he’s been playing in the Champions League because it looks too easy for him. We saw before the whole range. Short, long, playing between the lines. Physically, that’s what he’s in there for, a little bit of steel. With the centre-backs, boys get in bad positions, don’t worry, I’m there”, Hargreaves said on BT Sports.
His first EPL Emirates bow however ended in a loss against high flying Leicester who ran away with a one nil victory, after Jamie Vardy scored a late winner.
His next and actual first big test came at the Theatre of Dreams against a formidable Man United side who boast of a midfield lineup of Pogba, Fernandes, Fred, Van De Beek, McTominay and Matic. And right there in their backyard, he bossed the midfield alongside Mo Elneny in such a way that Vieira himself would be proud of.
Arsenal ended up winning the game at Old Trafford, a feat they last achieved in 2006. He was also named man of the match.
The entire Arsenal team did not cover themselves in glory in the encounter against Aston Villa in their next game at the Emirates as the side from the Midlands produced a fine performance to defeat the gunners. Partey’s impact was not felt as the English duo of Jack Grealish and Ross Barkley hijacked and took control of the midfield from their host.
The Ghanaian however, did not continue the game after suffering a thigh injury, which might have been the reason for his no show, and was replaced by Spaniard, Dani Ceballos.
Partey’s abilities are not one to be questioned or debated upon. He has shown with Athletico over the years that he can perform at the highest level. But with a new country and style of football comes new expectations. And the Arsenal fans are sure expecting a lot from the Ghanaian.
A lot already rests on his shoulders as they see him as one of the players to finally solve their midfield problems and hopefully bring back the trophy ladden era.
The questions now is whether he is capable and strong enough to carry such heavy load.
Is this the end of the fans’ cries for a midfield boss? Have their prayers finally been answered in the energetic Ghanaian? Will their hopes be dashed once again like in past years?
Thomas Partey is definitely not Patrick Vieira. They are not built the same, neither do they play the same way. They are entirely two different players. But one sellable comparison between them is that; just like Vieira, Partey will hopefully, also flourish in an Arsenal shirt, win trophies and bring back the good old days.