Return of 'special' Thomas Partey will lift Arsenal, says Mikel Arteta

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Thomas Partey is a “special character” who raises the level of those around him, according to Mikel Arteta, who is excited about welcoming back the midfielder when Arsenal face Crystal Palace on Thursday.

Arsenal signed Partey from Atlético Madrid for £45m in October but he has made only six appearances because of thigh injuries. His only outing in the past two months came in the defeat at Tottenham in December, when he was withdrawn midway through, but he is fit to return and Arteta hopes this week marks a new beginning to the Ghanaian’s career at the club.

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“I think he’s got a different presence – he brings something different to the team,” the manager said. “It’s not just about his talent, it’s not just about his physicality, it’s who he is as a person. He makes players better around him and that’s a big, big quality.

“It’s incredible that we are in January, we signed him in October and we have only played him [a handful of times]. We haven’t really seen the impact he could have on the team. Obviously we have missed him … I think it’s going to be a big bonus if we can keep him fit.”

Partey made an early impression with an excellent performance in the win against Manchester United at Old Trafford on 1 November. His lack of action since has taken a toll on and off the pitch, complicating his broader settling-in process as well as his integration into the side.

“When you are injured you feel first of all the responsibility when the club has made the effort we made to sign him,” Arteta said. “He was so willing for months to be joining us. He really wants to be a part of it and knows how much he can help. Then he had to deal with the injuries, with the lockdown and moving into a new place, and that’s been tough for him.

“That’s why sometimes he was rushing and wanted to do everything straight away, because he’s so willing to come back, he doesn’t want to be alone at home. He’s in a really good place, he’s settled really well in the dressing room, around the staff. He’s a special character and hopefully we can see him on the pitch finally.”

Arsenal’s other major signing of recent months, Gabriel Magalhães, is also available after recovering from Covid-19.