As always, Atletico Madrid went into the 2019/2020 season as the troublesome underdogs, with the aim of derailing the so-called big boys from winning the Spanish La Liga, Copa Del Rey as well as the Champions League.
In recent years, Diego Simeone’s men have been the only legitimate threat to the Spanish dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona while establishing themselves as a force in Europe and the bogeyman for the big boys.
But as the plot almost always goes, Atletico Madrid were unable to outweigh and outsmart their opponents as they succumbed to a third-place finish in the La Liga and a quarter-final elimination at the hands of Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig.
With arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, an experienced and solid defensive line, a potent attack and the fourth-most expensive player in Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid were unable to alter the worrying narrative.
However, in an unproductive and an expected denouement to their season plot, the Madrid based team have had some of their best players dominating the transfer headlines. The likes of Jan Oblak have been linked with a move to the Stamford Bridge while Saúl Ñíguez has also been linked to a move to Manchester United.
While these moves appear unlikely to happen, there is one that could happen anytime soon.
Having played in 48 games( 3289 minutes) for Atletico Madrid in the 2019/2020 season and scoring 5 goals and assisting one in the process, Thomas Partey’s future at Atletico Madrid is now in doubt.
The Ghanaian international was a mainstay of Simeone’s team, putting in a host of world-class performances against the big boys.
In the second leg at Anfield in particular, Partey made four tackles, won three aerial duels, completed two take-ons and had the third-most touches among his Atletico Madrid teammates, a performance that led football pundit Shaka Hislop labeling the Ghanaian international as one of the best box to box midfielders around.
The impressive campaign by Partey, again, saw him compared to Ghanaian and Chelsea legend, Michael Essien, a man who became synonymous with the ideal box to box midfielder in football.
So with the 2021 season imminent and Partey’s future unsettled, where will the “Partey” be located? Madrid or London? We look at the pros and cons of Partey’s next big decision.
A move to London?
Mikel Arteta has begun an interesting project at Arsenal and there was a clear indication of what the team could achieve in future with their impressive win over Chelsea in the FA Cup finals as well as other impressive results at the back end of last season including wins over both Manchester City and Liverpool.
The project does not seem to be slowing down any time soon, with the Head coach signing former Chelsea winger, Willian on a three-year deal, while a move for Lille center back Gabriel Magalhaes is all but done.
It is also being reported that star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is likely to stay at the club while Dani Ceballos who had an impressive spell at the Gunners on loan from Real Madrid might extend his stay at the club.
Arteta will, of course, like to bring in another midfielder, potentially a partner to Dani Ceballos provided he stays at the club. That midfield player could be a box to box midfielder in the shape of Partey and there is a reason why Arteta is thought to be an admirer of the 27-year-old.
In the 2019/2020 season, Thomas Partey had a tackle success rate better than all the Arsenal midfielders with Xhaka the only player to go beyond the 60% mark. Xhaka gained a 64.3% tackle success rate while Partey had (69.4%).
In terms of interceptions, only Torreira (2.0) betters Partey’s 1.6 interceptions per 90 minutes. Guendouzi averages 1.5 per 90, followed by Ceballos (1.2) and Xhaka (0.7).
His average of 2.2 successful dribbles per 90 in La Liga is the best of the quintet, with Ceballos averaging 1.6 per 90, Torreira 1.1, Guendouzi 1.0 and Xhaka 0.9.
With such impressive statistics, it is likely that Partey would slot and fit in the starting lineup of the Arsenal team. But these stats definitely do not guarantee success at the Emirates.
While there are high hopes of Partey fitting into the Arsenal team, there is the potential of Partey being unable to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. The League has been noted for its high intensity and physical demands as compared to other leagues, and it is probably a factor that has led to players like Ndombele and Bakayako being unsuccessful over the years.
There is also doubts as to whether Partey could adapt to the passing game of the Arsenal team as he recorded a lower passing success rate as compared to Arsenal players last season. He is bottom of the pile in terms of passing accuracy, with his 83.1% record lower than Torreira (87.9%), Xhaka (88.1%), Guendouzi (88.2%) and Ceballos (88.9%).
Arguments can, of course, be raised stating Partey’s love for more forward passes as the reason for his passing accuracy. Still, this statistic is sure to bring along with it some doubts about that specific aspect of his game.
There is also the question of whether Partey will be able to win trophies at a team that is now starting to rebuild. Arsenal might have won the FA Cup, and they might well do same this season considering their history in recent years, but they are not expected to win the Premier League or the Champions League anytime soon.
Of course, they will not even be available to play in the Champions League after failing to qualify, but as Willian stated, Mikel Arteta has plans of winning the trophy in the next 3 years and hopefully, just hopefully, Partey might have a Champions League medal if he joins.
Should Thomas Partey stay at Atletico Madrid?
In a recent interview with StarrFm in Ghana, the head coach of the Black Stars CK Akonnor made an honest but controversial statement on the future of Thomas Partey.
He indicated: “Honestly, I wouldn’t want him to move to Arsenal because with Atletico, he will always play Champions League football. His position is guaranteed and he will always play.”
“With Arsenal, I’m not too sure. Arsenal fans will kill me [for saying he should not join the Gunners].
“I hope that, and I’m sure money issues will come in, but I hope that whatever he asks for, Atletico will be able to pay.”
Akonnor was right. The statement didn’t sit right with Arsenal fans but the truth in his statement cannot be overlooked.
If Partey were to move from Atletico Madrid to Arsenal, there would be no champions league football to enjoy next season and probably in the seasons to come with the Premier League noted for its high competition for places in the Champions League.
On the other hand, he will feature in the Champions League next season and might even help the team to change its haunting narrative to win the Champions League.
The incentive of Partey joining Abedi Pele, Ibrahim Tanko, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Samuel Osei Kuffour as the only Ghanaian players to have won the Champions League might also be crucial.
In terms of game time, Thomas Partey would have no worry. He is very highly rated by Diego Simeone and will not be axed from the team anytime soon, provided he does not get injured or lose form.
At 27 years, Partey has only a few years to establish himself as one of the best midfielders to have ever graced the game and staying at Atletico Madrid might well offer him the opportinity to do that.
Should the “Partey” be moved?
Atletico Madrid are determined not to let Partey leave the Wanda Metropolitan unless Arsenal trigger the €50million release clause in the Ghanaian international’s contract. So there is a huge possibility of the player staying in Madrid or moving to London to join Arteta’s rebuilding.
But whatever decision Partey makes, there are obvious ramifications to it and they should form a crucial part of the player’s decision-making process.