Mikel Arteta facing £45m Arsenal Thomas Partey transfer dilemma after Chelsea masterclass

Thomas Partey is a player Arsenal have been trying to move on from for a long time now. The Gunners were actively trying to sell him in the first part of the window last summer before ultimately deciding to keep him when no suitable offer presented itself.

It seems they are preparing to do the same this summer with the likes of Martin Zubimendi being lined up as potential long term replacements and a contract extension for Jorginho on the table. One man who seems desperate to keep him around though is Mikel Arteta.

It was widely assumed that the club-record arrival of Declan Rice would spell the end of Partey’s Arsenal career. Rice is viewed as a long-term stalwart in the six, so how could the two possibly coexist? Arteta was adamant that he had the answer.

“They was in my plans,” he said when asked if the pair could play together all the way back in July. “If you want to improve the squad and have more quality, we need more players who can play together and need players in the same positions who have to fight for their places. It’s something we haven’t had in the last few years.”

One of the first chances he got, Arteta showed just how well this midifield could work. Partey, Rice and Martin Odegaard starred for an Arsenal team that more than matched Manchester City in the Community Shield. It was a window into the future, but sadly one that would be short lived.

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Injuries elsewhere in the squad forced Partey out to right back and the Ghanaian was injured before we could see the midfield again for some time. There was a false dawn as Partey, Rice and Odegaard combined to get Arsenal over the line against City once more in October, but this was to be the last time they would play together for seven months.

With how well it worked against Chelsea, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been. Partey and Rice seemed to compliment each other perfectly. The grace on the ball that Rice can lack, the Ghanaian brings and the athleticism and mobility than Partey can lack, the England international has in spades. Free from the shielding role in further back the pitch, Rice was able to consistently win it high up as Arsenal smothered what little fight there was out of their listless opponents.

Odegaard meanwhile relished in the liberty to conduct play in the final third. His through ball for Kai Havertz’s second goal was an undoubted highlight of the evening.

Watching on Arteta will surely have been cursing his luck at not having this formidable trio available to him all season. Well not exactly…

“(Maybe) we would have won every game,” he joked after the game. “But look at the run we are in and the points we have already.

“We have missed Thomas since August, and he's a big player for us, but that has given chances to other players. For Declan to play as a No.6 and then rediscover him as a No.8. Playing Kai as a No.9 too, and the contribution of Jorgi has been absolutely phenomenal as well.

“The team has resources and has to find different ways of winning, acting and interchanging their qualities. I'm really happy.”

He has every right to be. It’s not so long ago that Partey was the heartbeat of this Arsenal side. Now, he’s more like a second kidney - the Gunners are certainly stronger with him, but he’s not quite essential.

There will be plenty of chat about the midfield that might have been after this display, but Arteta will instead be looking at the midfield that could be. His options in the middle of the park are probably the best in the Premier League. What other side could boast a player of the quality of Jorginho as arguably a third choice defensive midfielder, or someone as good as Emile Smith Rowe as a back up eight.

Rob Edwards commented a few weeks ago that Arsenal’s squad can play any kind of match. With Partey available in the squad that’s certainly true.

In the short-term that provides the Gunners with plenty of answers as to how they are going to overcome a season-defining period of four matches. In the long run though, it leaves them with a question.

Do they indeed look to move on from Partey this summer? Yes, the Ghanaian is hard to rely on for a whole season and is now the wrong side of 30, but there are few players that can’t make the midfield tick as he did against Chelsea. It’s a decision that the market may dictate, but one that could define their squad next season.