Who: Thomas Partey
From Where: Atlético Madrid
To Where: Arsenal
For How Much: £45M/$58M
Grade For Arsenal: A
Grade for Atleti: C+
THOMAS PARTEY TO ARSENAL OVERVIEW
Arsenal might have landed the most impactful signing of this year’s transfer window in 27-year-old Thomas Partey. Most players that move for a sum like £45M generate that kind of fee because of who they will be as opposed to who they are, but the Ghanaian is essentially a finished product. However, at 27, Arsenal is getting a quality box-to-box midfielder with several years of his prime ahead.
Atleti is losing arguably its best, most important player from the last couple seasons, even if João Félix is considered a bigger star after his blockbuster signing last summer. With Partey at 100%, Atleti was able to knock off Liverpool over two legs in a memorable Champions League round-of-16 upset last March. Without him, they were a different squad in their loss to a Timo Werner-loss RB Leipzig in the quarterfinals.
WHO IS HE?
Despite underwhelming stats in La Liga last season, Partey was widely recognized as one of the Spanish league’s top midfielders. Yes, we’re referring to our own Best Starting XI in La Liga for 2019-20.
Seriously, though, Partey has been a cog in Atleti Manager Diego Simeone’s midfield since ’17-18, starting at least 32 games a year domestically each of the past three seasons.
A big, physical presence at 6-foot-1, Partey will add toughness and solidity to an Arsenal squad that already has plenty of firepower up top in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Co. He’s also a gifted passer, and it would be no surprise if his assist numbers jump dramatically thanks to the upgrade he’s getting in terms of the attackers he can set up.
IS THE PRICE FAIR?
In any other year, a player this established would cost a hell of a lot more than £45M. Partey, to me, is vastly superior to Wolves signee Nelson Semedo, for example, who cost £27.6M plus £9.1.
With all due respect to Portuguese soccer, I also would rather have Partey than Ruben Dias, who cost Manchester City €68M, plus add-ons (!). At 23, Dias obviously has less mileage. That being said, with deals like that in mind, I’m thrilled with this price tag if I’m an Arsenal fan.
Another positive aspect of this move is that it’s lower-risk than signing someone like Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, the 22-year-old who was reportedly a target of Arsenal’s throughout the window. While Aouar is certainly promising, spending more money for a player who may or may not immediately hold up after making the leap from Ligue 1 to the EPL doesn’t always work out.
Just last summer, Tanguy Ndombele seemed like a great signing for Tottenham, (even at the high price of £56.5M). But ask José Mourinho how he felt about his first season with the now-23-year-old.
WHAT IMPACT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
Let’s start with what we know: Partey will immediately become a first-choice starter for Mikel Arteta in the EPL and the Champions League.
As we mentioned above, Partey is likely salivating at the chance to link up with Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, which should showcase his versatility and creativity. I’m not sure I expect double-digit assists from him, but it wouldn’t shock me.
What I feel even more confident in is Partey’s ability to give Arsenal some of the toughness and defensive acumen this club has sorely lacked the past few years. Partey alone won’t change everything for a team that gave up 51 goals in ’18-19 and 48 last season, but expect his toughness, athleticism and range to help in a big way.
Arteta is getting exactly what his team needs in Partey, and Arsenal didn’t have to break the bank to land him. Go back and watch Partey vs. Liverpool in the Champions League last year and tell me this guy won’t move the needle for his new club. This signing is great news for the Gunners, no matter how many fans wanted the younger Aouar instead.
Selling talented players like this is nothing new for Atleti, but they have to be kicking themselves – and they reportedly are – for setting Partey’s release clause so low. It will be interesting to see whether Simeone can get any of his current players to replicate what Partey offered. For now, unless Lucas Torreira – who is joining Atleti from Arsenal on loan – is poised for a huge breakout, Atleti’s roster just suffered a big downgrade at a key position.