Arsenal have managed to complete the deadline day signing of midfield star Thomas Partey.
The Ghana international has been a top target all summer but the Gunners had previously baulked at the €50m release clause with Atlético Madrid insisting he would not be sold for less.
Having tried to negotiate a lower fee and reportedly offering the likes of Mattéo Guendouzi and Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira, the club looked elsewhere in the hope of bolstering the midfield.
But after deals for Lyon playmaker Houssem Aouar and Chelsea’s Jorginho fell through, Arsenal returned for Partey.
It is believed that Arsenal didn’t notify Atlético Madrid of their intentions. Spanish football rules state that release clauses must be paid in full and paid to La Liga, who then transfer the funds to the club meaning there doesn’t have to be any contact between the two clubs.
The Spanish club were confident that Partey would remain at the Wanda Metropolitano and Arsenal’s late charge caught them by surprise.
Personal terms were agreed weeks ago with the Ghanaian set to sign a four-year deal worth just over £200,000-a-week at the Emirates Stadium.
Partey came through the ranks at Atlético Madrid and after loan spells at Mallorca and Almería he forced his way into the first team, scoring 16 and assisting 12 in 188 games. He played both legs of the semi final against Arsenal as Atlético went on to win the Europa League in 2018 and the resulting UEFA Super Cup.
I was very concerned that Arsenal wouldn’t bring anyone in after the Aouar deal collapsed. The signs looked ominous and I feared where we would finish without improving our midfield.
With Mattéo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira both loaned out and Mesut Özil out of favour, Arsenal’s midfield options were only Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny and Joe Willock with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bukayo Saka also able to play there.
Partey’s addition strengthens the midfield immensely. He is a superb athlete that is able to cover the pitch left to right and box to box. Incorrectly judged as a defensive midfielder due to his strength, acute positional awareness and aerial prowess. With 2.49 tackles per 90 and 8.17 ball recoveries he will certainly add a strong layer of protection to the defence but he offers so much more.
He is the player that moves the ball from defence to attack. A forward-thinking passer who can drive up the pitch himself, his take-on success rate (86.5%) was only better by Thiago Alcántara (87%) last season.
Plenty of journalists in Spain were confused why Arsenal were so hesitant to splash out €50m, a modest fee in the modern market, for such a complete player while Atléti were in the process of offering him a new deal with a significantly larger release clause. It is rare to get such a talented player at that price.
For a team that finished 8th in the Premier League and have been out of the Champions League for four years, signing Partey represents a coup and he will transform the midfield.
I will admit that a player more akin to someone like Aouar was my more preferred midfield target. With creativity such a clear weakness and a difficulty to find a way through a low block defence, Aouar’s attributes were more of a solution that Partey’s.
However, with a clear run and a relatively low fee Partey was an opportunity Arsenal couldn’t pass on and I’m delighted to see the Gunners show some ambition to bring such a talented player to North London.
*Stats from Squawka.