Thomas Partey was brought in as the midfield saviour to a problem Arsenal have had for over a decade and a half. As the curtain drew on his first season as the club, he could have spent more time watching Patrick Vieira manage OGC Nice than trying to emulate him on the pitch.
Of course, Partey is his own man and even if he were to try and be the second coming of Vieira, he would come up short. Arsenal have never replaced the Frenchman, and they never will.
But as the engine of the team, the Ghanaian can have an his own sizeable impact under Mikel Arteta. And, that is exactly what he’s doing.
What has been key to that? Well, merely being available for selection has played a large part. It flew under the radar somewhat, but in starting against Leicester in the 2-0 win, Partey surpassed his record for consecutive Premier League starts for the club: a whopping six.
Indeed, the longest stretch of matches Partey started in the previous season was five. He reached that number twice, but only on a handful of occasions did he complete the full 90 minutes.
Since beating Norwich 1-0 the 28-year-old has started all the league matches, seeing the game out on four occasions. Barring any late issues he looks certain to be in Arteta’s starting lineup against Watford, and it is not coincidence that Arsenal have been much improved in the time he’s been available.
It can’t never be understated how integral Partey is to this team. Whether he’s casting some of his defensive dark arts inherited from Diego Simeone or picking out the line breaking passes that Arteta has given him the license to do, his presence and assurance in the centre of the park is unmatched.
Taking over the senior mantle with Granit Xhaka out, this current run of form, with improvements aplenty, has its heart in Partey. He runs the midfield in the same way that Emile Smith Rowe runs the pockets.
Prior to the season starting, listing what needed to go right for Arsenal to be in the hunt for a European berth this since would have been the new recruits hitting the ground running, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring, and Partey avoiding injuries.
Arsenal were dreadful last season and still somehow missed out on the top four by only six points. If Partey can continue playing once a week and building his physical strength, the possibilities of this team open up.
Nothing can be achieved without a fit and firing Partey. So Arsenal best profit from it as much as can.