13 October 2021

Thomas Partey proves he's not auditioning to play for an American football team...

When Thomas Partey joined Arsenal from Atletico Madrid, it felt too many like we had finally found that much-vaunted Vieira's HeirTM, that dominating, physical box-to-box midfielder who could disrupt opponents' attacks, link defense to attack, and bomb forward to score. There were flashes of that from the often-injured Elijah Price—er, Abou Diaby—but we've never truly found the player who could fill that role. Partey's arrival seemed to herald the dawning of a new era. He quickly showed that he could dominate a midfield. His passing split lines and carved defenses open. He tackled with almost-reckless aplomb...and then came the shots. Simply put, it often seemed like the man was auditioning to take point-after tries for an American football team or perhaps a conversion for a proper rugby side. Some of his efforts are still being tracked by the Hubble Telescope. However, there is better news on the near-horizon.

During the international break, Thomas scored not just one but two goals, successfully kicking the ball—wait for thisunderneath the crossbar, not to mention between the posts. For the first, he was perhaps historically attuned to his predecessor and would be heir to Vieira's throne, nicking the ball away from the opposition, dancing past a defender, and darting the ball low and to the keeper's left and into the back of the net. But he wasn't done. In the second match against Zimbabwe, Ghana earned a free kick from just outside the area. Thomas stepped up, and even with that first goal fresh in our memories, it would have been hard to resist the snarky expectation of a souvenir offered up to the cheap seats. However, Thomas offered a decent chip over the wall and the flummoxed keeper and into the top right corner to secure a vital 0-1 win for the Black Pips. But please. Don't believe me. Observe this video (okay, these videos. There are two, after all:

Now, these two goals may not stand for much on their own, but keep in mind just how wasteful Thomas has been. He's taken 26% of our goals from open play but has produced only 8% of our expected goals. That's 30 shots taken with just four on target and...no goals. As we return from the international break, I'm sure we're all just as thirsty for goals as Thomas is. We have, after all, only scored five league goals in seven matches. Thomas has been instrumental in orchestrating the defense and marshalling the midfield. He's even lacerated opposing defenses with those line-splitting passes. We'll have to wait 'til Monday to see our lads take to the pitch again—but that will be against Crystal Palace, managed by none other than Patrick Vieira. The good news come from none other than Orbinho, someone who normally plies his trade in obscure negativity. That said, I'll close with his tweet:

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