Tag Archives: Thomas Partey

A match that forges champions was played today…

How did we go two behind to a side that had scored just 22 goals in 24 matches? It scarcely matters, but let’s give Bournemouth credit. A trick-play from kickoff resembled an onside kick in American football, with five players lining up to the left only for the ball to be played wide right and then crossed in and tapped home. 9.1 seconds in, and it felt like our title hopes had been smashed into a milllion pieces, and we just couldn’t pick them up. We crashed again and again against their eight and nine and ten men in the box, flashing shots and spurning chance after chance after chance. By the time our visitors went up 0-2, it felt like time to console ourselves with a top-four finish. And then… and then

Well, we all know what happened. Smith-Rowe headed back in from Neto’s weakly punched clearance and Partey nipped in at the back post to poke home. Scenes. Game on. Eight minutes later, it’s White tapping home from—let’s face it—what felt like an overhit cross from Nelson. Neto pawed it away beut only after it already crossed the line. Even Kavanagh, who had given us little else all day, had to confirm it. Well, that’s a point saved, then isn’t it? That will be enough to keep us level with City, at least on points…right? 

Wrong. This young squad, around which has swirled a tempest of skeptical questions and dubious punditry, refused to quit. Not a single player gave up despite the endless rejections of various penalty shouts of varying degrees of legitimacy, despite the innumerable seconds and minutes lost to time-wasting, despite the gnawing sense of doom that had to be rising. While I don’t there are many of us who can honestly say we knew our lads would find a way to win, it’s starting to feel more and more like both we and those lads know something else: we refuse to quit. Down 2-0, it might have been easy to heave a sigh of relief, sense the ebbing energy in our own legs and lungs, and reconcile ourselves to a hard-won draw against a desperate and determined opponent. 

Wrong again. It felt and sounded like every last fan in that stadium shouted and chanted and cheered until their throats bled—and then went to to double and triple the volume anyway. When was the last time the Emirates was this loud, this long, after we’d conceded twice? If anything, those fans got louder. Bournemouth’s players, instead of feeling bold and resoluted, looked more and more like panicky Uruk-hai and Orcs as the Rohirrim charge at them. Crosses were flimsy, passes misplaced, nerves were jangled. Once we found that equaliser, a win did start to feel almost inevitable.

Karma works in mysterious ways. Every time he had the ball, Neto took as many as 25 seconds before a punt, throw, or goal-kick. His teammates were just as bad with throw-ins and mysterious injuries that seemed to never need treatment. The whistles rained down because Kavanagh just wouldn’t use his. By the time he finally booked Neto (for dissent, mind, not for time-wasting), the sarcastic cheers flowed.

It’s only just then, for the second time in as many matches, that we’d score a winner in the very stoppage-time the keeper created in his desperate, cynical attempt at wasting time in the first place. Our players are either too naïve or too brave or both to believe that they’ll lose. Elsewhere around the league, rivals and their fans had to be licking their lips at the prospect of Arsenal’s failure. For more than an hour, they could savour a scoreline that would surely end with Arsenal dropping points at home to relegation fodder. The schadenfreude would be immeasurable.

Well, that part is at least true. I daresay that I haven’t scales or measuring tape or buckets capable of measuring the schadenfreude we’re feeling after Reiss Nelson (Reiss Nelson? Arsenal must be desperate) came on to assist White’s goal and then score the dramatic equaliser.

You want to talk about how young, naïve, and inexperienced this squad is? Go back and watch Nelson chests the ball down and, with two defenders rushing at him, coolly takes a touch and then just lashes the ball home, leaving Neto no chance. It would have been easy to panic, understandable even, for a young player who’d played only 80-odd minutes all season. He didn’t. No one did. 

The roar that went up was deafening, the celebrations frantic. No, we haven’t won the league. In the end, we only beat the team that sits 19th in it. Our lead over City is still a very fragile five points. Winning this match doesn’t mean we’ll win the league, although it certainly does help. What it does do is fuel an ever-deepening belief among everyone associated with this club, that something very, very special is that much closer. This is the kind of win that forges champions. They can’t all be 3-0 cakewalks. Not in this of all leagues. If we do end up hoisting that trophy for the first time since 2004, this is one match that will stand out as one in which we learned just what it takes to be champions and just much of that we have in this young, determined, wonderful squad. 

Can you believe it? Can you?

Arsenal 3-2 Bournemouth: Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???? Arsenal produced a determined, furious comeback after Bournemouth produced a stunning ninth minute goal to go ahead and then add a well-headed corner to make it 2-0. From there, it really felt like the title was slipping away. We just couldn’t get through Bournemouth’s ten men or Neto, who probably wasted a solid 15 minutes on his own. Between that and the half-dozen penalty shouts of varying degrees of legitimacy, it was starting to feel like one of those days. Then, finally, goals from Partey and White turned the game on its head. Te point might not be enough to keep us top of the table much longer, but the fightback showed enough spirit and grit to build on. Then, with the very last kick of the match, Nelson lashed it home to win. We’re still on top!!! Vote for the lads here. Real time results are here

Declan Rice has "agreed terms with Arsenal ahead of summer switch"

They’ll learn to get along, right?

If you’re the credulous sort, you may not know what the word credulous means, in which case, mail your wallet to me (best to overnight it) after making sure your credit card is there and you’ve recently visited an ATM. The normally creditable site FourFourTwo is out with a report that states that Rice has agreed a five-year deal at £200,000 per week, more than triple his current £60,000 per week salary. If true—and that’s a bigger if than I know how to display with any keyboard shortcut I have availableit would make for massive news and a validation of our decision to sign Jorghino (who’s been somewhat of a revelation thus far) at a mere £12m.

With rumours swirling around an impending sacking of David Moyes, whose obdurate refusal to admit that West Ham’s swirling of the drain makes players available at somewhat less than his inflated estimations, a summer-move for Rice looks all the more likely. What’s more, the one-time Irishman has a contract that expires in June 2024, which forces the club to stare directly into the face of losing Rice on a free transfer. Whether or not they get relegated, selling Rice in the summer might just be what’s best for the club. Cashing out at, say £70m would allow the Hammers to sign two or three players (should they stay up) or a half-dozen (should they drop down).

As for the 24 year old, he’s clearly thirsty for a chance at Champions League football, something he’s only ever caught a glimpse of after West Ham made it to the Europa Leage semifinal last year. With West Ham far more likely to get relegated than to qualify for even the Europa Conference League, he must be eyeing up Arsenal’s current campaign, which, if I may be so bold, looks likely to get us a Champions League spot next year. 

Furthermore, Rice has to be looking at our current squad. Neither Party nor Xhaka nor Jorginho is a spring chicken. He’s already recognised as world-class or close to it at his position and could make a convincing argument for walking into our XI should he sign. He seems versatile enough to play as a 6 or an 8, meaning he could offer cover and competition to both Xhaka and Partey (and Jorginho). Along the way, he’d offer enviable tactical flexibility to a manager who obsesses over that. Think of it: in that centre-mid, Arteta could have the kind of selection headache that most managers, even Pep, can only dream about. Between Xhaka, Partey, Jorginho, and Rice, he could keep any opposing manager off-balance. Add Zinchenko to the mix, and you’ve got the kind of cocktail that’ll put anyone on the floor. 

At any rate, between now and late August, prepare yourself to come across any number of incredulous headlines asserting that Rice has finalised a move to the correct end of London. Just keep in mind that none of those other sources know any more about this situation than your correspondent (which is to say, only what I read from those other sources). If Rice is to end up at the Arsenal, we’ll have to wait until it’s announced at the club website. 

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Partey? Who needs Partey when we have Jorginho?

Those of you still disappointed that we didn’t sign Declan Rice or Moises Caicedo may have to check your credentials at the door, for you are about to get bounced. Jorginho is not just another literal pensioner in the mold of Čech or Luiz or Willian, looking for a decent paycheck without the pressure of performing to the highest levels. I’m not here to say that Jorginho is the answer to our dependence on Partey, but I will suggest that he’s more than adequate to meeting our needs. He’s earned two consecutive MOTMs in our post-match polls, for one. He may not be able to do all the things that Partey does, but he’s shown in his three short stints since joining that he’s more than up to the task of deputizing for the oft-injured Ghanaian.

For one, Jorginho ain’t winning any footraces. That’s one glaring area where he comes up short in comparison to Partey. Like Xhaka, he makes up for his lack of pace with an unrelenting engine. He actually covers more ground per match than Partey has done (11.1km to 10.4km). As he’s aged, it seems as if Jorginho has learned the more-subtle arts of energy conservation and positioning, similar to how Mertesacker did. What he lacks in Parteysian pace (?), he more than makes up for with savvy positioning. 

It’s not just that, though. At least three times, he played a ball through into space for Saka, such as the one you see to the right. This was just one of numerous line-breaking passes to our starboy, Jorginho also sluiced balls in behind for Tomiyasu and White to run onto. In addition, Partey has a tendency to stay central, which can limit his ability to pick out a pass to Saka or Martinelli operating from wider areas. Jorginho’s willingness to move laterally—despite his lack of pace—gives our attack dimensions we don’t have when Partey is playing as the #6.

In fact, Jorginho completed 15 progressive passes, the kind of passes that gets into the box or moves the ball at least ten yards closer to goal, excluding those that originate in our own half. That’s the highest number for any of our players all season—and Jorginho is still bedding in.

None of this is to suggest that Jorginho is a long-term successor to Partey. He is, after all, 31. However, he’s already shown himself to be a valuable short-term stopgap. Signed on a meagre £12m fee, he’s looking to be more and more the signing of the January window. By contrast, Mykhalo Mudryk, signed for a £62m fee or whatever chicanery Chelsea were able to pull off, has yet to make any real impact. Caicedo is still finding his way, and Rice soldiers on bravely but without much to show for his efforts. We could have splurged on one or both, spending £100m or more on one, but its hard to argue against the value we’ve gotten so far from what we spent to get Jorginho. With Saka getting support from an overlapping White or Tomiyasu, defenders have a harder time doubling up on Saka, and Jorginho has two targets to play through.

It’s not just the electric moments, such as when he decides to score by banging the ball off the crossbar and onto Emi Martinez’s head. Top bantz, that is, but it only scratches the surface. Before he could score that banger after all, we had to equalize. In one of those minor moments that only gets picked up by those who are not ball-watching, Jorginho gestured to Zinchenko to swap positions. The left-footed Zinchenko may have been better-suited to take advantage of half-clearances—and that is indeed what happened. The ball fell to Zinchenko just outside the 18, and he duly lashed it home. Jorginho contributed, in essence, by removing himself from the equation.
Is Jorginho good enough to lead us to the top of the Prem? Perhaps. Is he good enough to paper over our reliance on Partey until Partey is fit again? That is feeling more and more like a given. With news that Partey hasn’t been in training ahead of our trip to face Leicester on Saturday, it’s good to know that we have someone in Jorginho who can not only put in a shift but actually dictate play. He’s not a one-for-one swap for Partey, but he offers more than enough to compensate until Partey is fit. What’s more, he can also offer cover for Xhaka, allowing Arteta to rest two vital players as we continue to defend our position atop the table and prepare to progress deeper into Europa League play.
That’s a decent bit of business at £12m.

Gooners BLAST "unreliable" Partey in wake of Man City defeat…

Arsenal’s wobble has reached calamitous levels, with the club now having failed to win in its last four outings, crashing out of the FA Cup and falling from the top of the table. Fingers are being pointed and questions being asked about the increasingly unreliable Thomas Partey, who was a late scratch from Wednesday’s lineup after a hamstring injury. The Ghanaian has now featured in just 36% of matches since joining the club, and our record in those matches is a woeful 10W 1D 10L. While we can credit wins over Man U and Chelsea, the other wins came over such fodder as FC Zurich, Oxford, Watford, Everton, Southampton and West Ham. 

Okay, enough with the hand-wringing and the teeth-gnashin. Partey’s injury-woes are a legimitate concern, but it’s a stretch to call him a liability. While it’s true that he’s one of our most-essential players and that our record without him is middling at best, this match actually showed that we might have a capable deputiy ready to step up. Despite the lateness of Partey’s injury and the newness of Jorginho’s arrival, we actually acquitted ourselves fairly well. Many City recorded their lowest numbers for possession, passing accuracy, and successful passes since Pep took the wheel:

  • possession: 36.4%
  • passing accuracy: 72.8%
  • successful passes: 219
In other words, our tactics were working. Our press—led by Nketiah and supported by Jorginho—was thoroughly disrupting Guardiola’s superior squad. We were not undone by the absence of Partey or of Jesus. We did not succumb to the kind of dropped heads and shrugged shoulders of years past. After going behind because of our own error rather than any ingenuity on City’s part, we equalised, and, in truth, were unlucky not to take a lead into halftime. City didn’t earn this result; we gifted it to them. That’s a troubling sign, of course, but the silver lining is that we stared them straight in the eye, took a few to the chin, and still came out meriting something more than we ended up with. 
For those fretting over the lede to this post, consider this: Jorginho leads the post-match MOTM poll as of this writing with 36% of the vote. That, and the afore-mentioned stats for City, suggest that we have a more-than-capable deputy for Partey. What’s more, we’ve avoided triggering a longer-term spell on the sidelines for our first-choice #6. Had we started him, we might have found a rather-Pyrrhic victory, taking a point or three from this match only to see him sidelined for weeks on end, potentially derailing not only our chance at a Prem title or Europa League glory but a Champions League spot.
Titles are not won in February. For as dispiriting as it feels to slump in this way, there is life yet in this squad. They showed it here when other squads would have folded. collapsing in on themselves like a house of cards. 
Yeah, this loss hurts. We missed a chance at making a dramatic declaration of our intent. Yeah, we’re no long top of of the table…but we do have a game in hand and, what’s more, the knowledge that we can square up to the best squad money can buy (legally or otherwise) without two of our best players and still come within a few punches of a knockout or at least a TKO. I know full-well that I’m frequently guilty of too much optimism, but I don’t think it’s unfounded in this case. But for a few misplaced passes, we could have come away with a creditable draw or a dramatic win. That’s the way the ball bounces sometimes.
City didn’t do anything special here. Sure, they pounced on a few errors, and we flubbed most of our best chances. Still, the margins here were still so narrow that we’d not be wrong to take some positivity out of the result all the same. 
The title-chase isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, it’s only just begun.
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