In a generally frenzied first half on the Emirates Stadium, when Arsenal have been pouring forwards, challenges have been flying in from each side and tempers have been fraying, Thomas Partey remained a determine of calm in the centre of the pitch.
Arsenal supporters are nonetheless getting to know the 28-year-old following a stop-start first season in England, most of which was performed behind closed doorways. But this was him at his unflappable finest. This was the participant the membership have pinned a lot hope on.
“He is a player who has to be one of the leaders, he has to be the boss in midfield,” stated Mikel Arteta final month. He actually did that right here, excelling each in and out of possession and offering a platform for Arsenal’s attacking gamers to tear the guests aside.
Arsenal racked up 14 photographs earlier than the break, their highest whole in a single half beneath Arteta, and when Partey was not taking them himself – he hit the bar with one close-range effort shortly earlier than his aim – he was beginning the assaults from additional again.
He was all over the place, in different phrases, and whereas his fruitless long-shooting has been a supply of frustration for supporters, his long-awaited first aim for Arsenal, headed residence from Emile Smith Rowe’s nook, confirmed a set-piece menace they may now hope to see extra of.
It is his distribution, although, that stands out as his highest quality and it was evident from the primary couple of minutes of the sport, when he slid an incisive move between Matt Targett and Emiliano Buendia to launch Bukayo Saka on the right-hand side of the Villa field.
His capacity to break opposition traces is invaluable to Arteta however he does the straightforward issues simply as effectively. There have been physique feints to give himself a yard of area and intelligent touches to do the identical for team-mates.
At the time of his aim, he had not misplaced a single move. By the tip, he had made extra passes, had extra touches and made extra profitable tackles than anybody else on the pitch.
He appeared like he was having fun with himself and no marvel.
Partey had to endure greater than his share of frustration final season, accidents limiting him to solely 18 Premier League begins, and there was extra misfortune in the beginning of this one, a twisted ankle suffered in pre-season inflicting him to miss Arsenal’s first three video games.
His absence was a major issue in the defeats that adopted, simply as his return has been a major issue in the next upturn in kind. Arsenal haven’t seen sufficient of Partey at his finest however there isn’t any doubt he makes them higher.
He does that, in half, by making others higher. “I think he’s got a different presence,” stated Arteta again in January. “It’s not just about his talent and his physicality, it’s who he is as a person. He makes players around him better and that’s a big, big quality.”
He actually did that on Friday evening. Takehiro Tomiyasu had a troublesome begin at right-back, shedding possession on a number of events and permitting Villa to exploit the area behind him, however Partey helped him by it, providing him directions and staying shut to him.
Smith Rowe was named man-of-the-match however Partey had a job in that too, consistently in search of the 21-year-old in possession and offering the service he wanted to thrive. No participant acquired extra passes from Partey over the course of the 90 minutes.
Much had been fabricated from Granit Xhaka’s absence due to damage in the wake of Monday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace however, having been alone in midfield for a lot of that sport, Partey was helped by the presence of Albert Sambi Lokonga alongside him in this one.
The two-man midfield ensured higher solidity. And whereas Lokonga has made an assured begin to life at Arsenal following his £15m arrival from Anderlecht in the summer time, it’s no coincidence that his finest efficiency but got here subsequent to Partey.
The Ghanaian was signed for his expertise in addition to his high quality, in spite of everything, and that has change into much more necessary given how the profile of the side has modified this season.
Against Villa, seven of Arsenal’s starters have been aged 23 or beneath, whereas in Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, their three substitutes have been 20, 22 and 24 respectively.
The youthful make-up of the side provides to the duty on Partey’s shoulders, however on this proof he’s greater than prepared to take it on.
An uncharacteristically weak problem in the build-up to Villa’s aim was a uncommon blot on an in any other case wonderful efficiency however Arsenal’s “midfield boss”, their determine of calm amid the chaos, is lastly making the impression Arteta all the time hoped he would.