Thomas Partey’s arrival was meant to transform Arsenal.
The Ghana star arrived from Atletico Madrid with an immense reputation but Gooners only witnessed his brilliance intermittently.
In truth, there are mitigating circumstances. The all-action midfielder’s move wasn’t confirmed until the season was underway, making it doubly difficult to hit the ground running.
Secondly, injuries hampered him early into his Arsenal career and he seemed to be chasing his tail afterwards.
His initial injury took place soon after a storming showing at Old Trafford against Manchester United, where he dovetailed intelligently with Mohamed Elneny in the middle of the park to neuter Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes respectively.
While the second half of the season was far kinder — he started 14 and featured in 17 of the final 19 games, having missed 12 of the opening 19 — it wasn’t enough to help his beloved Arsenal finish in the European spots.
Despite their eighth-place finish, though, Mikel Arteta’s men finished joint-fourth of the form table in the second half of 2020-21 season on 34 points — for context, Liverpool had 35 and Chelsea 38 points — coinciding with Partey’s sustained run in the side.
Any transfer rumours?
Even if there was anything genuine, the club are unlikely to consider given Partey is considered a key player expected to play a pivotal part in Arsenal’s season.
Avoiding injuries would have been a general wish, but the West African’s ankle injury in the Mind Series encounter with Chelsea will see him miss around three weeks of action.
The desire to see the Ghana superstar play a greater part than last year’s 24 Premier League appearances (18 starts) hasn’t lessened, though, and Gooners will hope this isn’t the sign of things to come this season.
“Partey’s injury against Chelsea on Sunday has come as a major blow for Arsenal,” Goal’s Arsenal correspondent Charles Watts comments. “After such an injury disrupted first season at Arsenal, Partey needed to have a full pre-season so he could hit the ground running straight away once the new campaign gets underway.
“So, for him to break down just a couple of weeks before the season opener at Brentford was a real disappointment, especially as he had been looking so impressive during the summer friendlies.”
For the team, finishing in the Champions League positions after a lengthy absence will make the season a successful one.
If layoffs remain prevalent, supporters of the club will begin to question a player they invested a lot in, by Arsenal’s standards.
What are they saying?
Watts continues: “Partey is undoubtedly Arsenal’s best midfielder and he will be crucial to Mikel Arteta this season.
"Arsenal’s focus now must be on getting him back fit and ensuring the mistakes we saw last season, when he was rushed back from injury too early, are not repeated.”
What role will Partey play at the Afcon?
Undoubtedly, the Arsenal star makes the Ghana squad at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations if he avoids injury and will back himself to star as the Black Stars seek a first title since 1982.
“The expectation starts from our good preparations,” Partey, who represented the at the last two Afcon tournaments, said, as reported by the local media. “We have to start preparing now, we have to go from one game to another.
“First we have to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations and make sure we have to win our friendly games before the competition starts.
“Through hard work, for sure, everything is possible, so I think [the fans] have to relax, they have to be calm and keep supporting us.”
Despite observers more or less ruling Arsenal out of the top four contention, the absence of European football for the first time in 25 years could be a blessing in disguise this term.
Admittedly, they’ll have to supplant one of the Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea, while Leicester City and, to a lesser extent, Tottenham Hotspur will be in the fight, Arteta’s squad looks decent-to-good on paper to focus solely on Premier League football.
Arteta has to deal with the Afcon absences of Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, and Mohamed Elneny which is likely to be a tricky period in Arsenal’s season.
Regardless, we are tipping the Gunners to battle for a Champions League spot and there’s an expectation to have last summer’s acquisition from Atletico Madrid fit for the majority of the season.
“Injuries have stopped Partey getting anywhere near his full potential at Arsenal following his move from Atletico Madrid but there is a big hope around the club that he is ready to explode this season and show the Premier League just how good he is,” Watts concludes.