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Sports News of Saturday, 26 December 2020


What to expect from Thomas Partey in 2021?

2020 was a mixed bag for Thomas Partey 2020 was a mixed bag for Thomas Partey

2020 was a mixed bag for Thomas Partey.

After a reasonably good individual year for Atletico Madrid, one of Africa’s brightest exports secured his dream move to Arsenal on Deadline Day.

The late move was celebrated by the majority of Gooners due to the Ghana star’s profile and rounded nature, which solved some of their midfield issues.

Some supporters felt the club should have prioritised signing a more creative player like Houssem Aouar but understood and accepted the arrival of Partey from Atletico.

Partey: The story of 2020

While Diego Simeone’s team appeared to have plateaued in 2019/20, Partey grew in popularity and was linked to some of Europe’s top sides, including Arsenal — the side he eventually joined — and Chelsea for a bit.

Regardless of Los Rojiblancos’ struggles, the West African was one of their best performers in the Champions League round of 16 tie against then-defending European champions Liverpool, who they eliminated 4-2 on aggregate.

Simeone’s team had actually struggled in La Liga before the lockdown but were top beneficiaries of football’s suspension in March. They were able to rally post-lockdown to win seven of their 11 top flight games to end joint-third in the league, a staggering 17 points adrift of Real Madrid.

Seemingly on the wane and struggling to compete with a weak Los Blancos and even weaker Barcelona, it seemed a good time for Partey to depart Madrid.

Arsenal under Mikel Arteta presented an interesting adventure. Having won the FA Cup beating Manchester City and Chelsea in the semi-final and final respectively and beaten the newly-crowned Premier League champions in the Community Shield, the Gunners switch made sense, in theory.

While Goal argued before 19/20 ended that a move to Arteta’s team was odd due to Arsenal’s lack of Champions League football and made a case for choosing Chelsea instead, the 27-year-old swapped Madrid for North London in early October.

Unfortunately, injuries have blighted the all-round midfielder’s time in England so far, while the miserable run of results heading into December have left Arsenal closer to the bottom three than the top four.

Partey’s quality has shone through in games he’s played, most notably at Old Trafford where he put on a masterclass along with Mohamed Elneny as the London giants beat Manchester United 1-0; whereas he’s drawn criticism in some parts over his decision to, more or less, substitute himself in the 2-0 derby defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at the start of December.

With a return date still unknown, the Ghanaian has certainly had a forgettable start at Arsenal and will hope for improved luck in the new year.

Partey: Any transfer rumours?

None. It’ll take the most dramatic turn of events to see a player chased by the club to consider leaving in January or even next summer.

Partey: One big ambition for 2021

Two months ago after the West African signed for the Gunners, the objective was certainly for the ex-Atletico star to increase the side’s prospects as they looked to return to Europe’s premier club competition.

Now, with the situation at the three-time Premier League champions apparently desperate, finishing in the CL spots will mark a brilliant first year for the midfielder, regardless of how faulty a start he might have had.

If qualifying via a top four league finish proves to out of reach, winning the Europa League — which guarantees an automatic slot in the continent’s prestigious showpiece — will equally suffice.

Either way, taking Arsenal into the Champions League for the first time since 16/17 will be massive for the Gunners who have fallen behind domestically and on the continent.

Partey: One big fear for 2021

On an individual front: if the injuries persist and the midfield man’s unable to play a significant part for the rest of the season.

For the club: if Arsenal miss out on European football totally and have to play 21/22 without any continental football.

The worst case scenario, which seems inconceivable, will be for the Gunners to suffer the ignominy of relegation from the Premier League.