International breaks are always fraught with danger. Many players, especially those who play for smaller ctountries, frequently find themselves as the biggest and best player in the squad, exposing them to larger responsiibilties and roles, not to mention greater risks. It’s one thing to be among the best in your club’s squad; you can still count on having teammates of a similar quality. That drop-off at the country level, though, puts a player like Thomas Partey in dicey territory. For as much as we depend on him, Ghana may depend on him ten times as much, if not more. It was therefore a terrifying moment when we learned that Partey was not in the starting lineup against Angola this weekend. As it turns out, though, it all sounds like another chapter of the age-old story of making a mountain out of a molehill.
Then again, we did just need a collective change of undergarments after Rodri tried to Shawcross Martin Ødegaard, something we discussed here. Ødegaard finished the match, but it was still ugly. On to lighter news, then.
Fun fact: it turns out that Ghana are managed by none other than Chris Hughton. Good for him. I thought he had retired long ago. Anyway, it was apparently Hughton’s decision to rest Partey after the player felt something in his right leg during a training session with his country on Sunday. Sources close to the player insist it is not a hamstring issue and believe he should be fine for Saturday’s game at Emirates Stadium. Houghton is understood to have taken the decision to leave Partey out on his own. There was no outside pressure from Arsenal, despite the presence of Arsenal physiotherapist Simon Murphy.
Fine by me if the man can get some rest instead of running around. It doesn’t look like his absence dented Ghana’s ambitions. They still managed an away-draw and stay atop their AFCON table. They’ll visit hapless, winless Madagascar in June before hosting second place Central African Republic in August, for anyone keeping track. Back to Partey.
The fact that he was at least on the bench suggests that whatever niggle he felt was minor and that his withdrawal was precautionary. If he or Murphy noticed something genuinely concerning, Partey would probably not have even made the bench. Keeping him available as a sub in the event that Ghana found themselves losing (they did concede a pen early in the second half before equalising in the 72nd minute) again suggests that we’re probably seeing an abundance of caution rather than an actual injury.
Looking ahead, we host Leeds on Saturday but should be able to get away with resting Partey. It’s Man City who will have selection dilemmas when they face Liverpool—not only is Phil Foden out following an appendectomy, Haaland is also out after having suffered a groin injury, apparently against Burnley. The Norway physio evaluated him before Norway faced Spain and ruled him out. Of course, “selection dilemma” is a relative term when we’re talking about Man City. While Haaland has been immense for them, something tells me they’ll have more than enough firepower to take the match to Liverpool. Should be a spicy encounter.
Even without Partey, we may have a chance to eleven points clear should Liverpool do the business. I’d settle for a draw, to be honest. A chance to get ten points clear would still be magnificent. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. None of the maths matter over there if we don’t get the result we need over here.