Arsenal signing Thomas Partey reminds me of Patrick Vieira the way he bosses midfield, writes Alan Smith

Alan Smith
·2-min read

After losing to the country’s best two teams and beating the others, this game should offer more clues as to where Arsenal stand.

Leicester, after all, were much better than the Gunners for most of last season until the wheels fell off towards the end. The Foxes really should have qualified for the Champions League, rather than joining Arsenal in the sub-standard version.

Talking of which, last night’s Europa League tie against Rapid Vienna turned into a decent win for Arsenal after an hour of mediocrity featuring a sloppy mistake by Bernd Leno.

There was nothing sloppy about Thomas Partey, though. He hardly put a foot wrong in a performance that showcased an impressive passing range that should encourage anyone in front to keep making runs.

Holding midfielder? No, Partey is much more than that. He proved that emphatically with some incisive play that suggested a useful understanding could quickly develop with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Without wishing to get carried away, the way he bossed the game, Partey brought back memories of Patrick Vieira. For the first time since the majestic Frenchman’s time, the Gunners may now boast a dominant force in the middle of the park who can change a game as well as mix it physically.

It will, of course, be harder on Sunday. With James Maddison and Youri Tielemans possibly floating about in his domain, Partey will have to be on his toes as he gets to grips with the added intensity of the Premier League.

Wounded by losing their last two, Leicester will be delighted to have Vardy back, especially as the gutsy striker loves playing against Arsenal, notching 10 goals in his last 10 starts.

With that in mind, I want to mention Gabriel, something of an unsung hero since arriving this summer. He is one of those central defenders you do not always notice, thanks to his positioning and anticipation. Because of that, he will often get his body in the way or head on the ball — something proper defenders always enjoy.

A great athlete, he covers the ground beautifully, which should come in handy with Vardy around. And at 22, the Brazilian will only get better. The early signs suggest he will be around for a while.

So will Partey, I hope. These two, in fact, could form key parts of a spine that Mikel Arteta is trying to construct. That kind of backbone, missing for some time, is a must in any successful side.

Leicester know all about that, having pulled off a miracle four years ago. And under Brendan Rodgers, they are in decent nick once more.

All in all, this should be worth watching between my old clubs.

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