16 February 2023

Gooners BLAST "unreliable" Partey in wake of Man City defeat...

Arsenal's wobble has reached calamitous levels, with the club now having failed to win in its last four outings, crashing out of the FA Cup and falling from the top of the table. Fingers are being pointed and questions being asked about the increasingly unreliable Thomas Partey, who was a late scratch from Wednesday's lineup after a hamstring injury. The Ghanaian has now featured in just 36% of matches since joining the club, and our record in those matches is a woeful 10W 1D 10L. While we can credit wins over Man U and Chelsea, the other wins came over such fodder as FC Zurich, Oxford, Watford, Everton, Southampton and West Ham. 

Okay, enough with the hand-wringing and the teeth-gnashin. Partey's injury-woes are a legimitate concern, but it's a stretch to call him a liability. While it's true that he's one of our most-essential players and that our record without him is middling at best, this match actually showed that we might have a capable deputiy ready to step up. Despite the lateness of Partey's injury and the newness of Jorginho's arrival, we actually acquitted ourselves fairly well. Many City recorded their lowest numbers for possession, passing accuracy, and successful passes since Pep took the wheel:

  • possession: 36.4%
  • passing accuracy: 72.8%
  • successful passes: 219
In other words, our tactics were working. Our press—led by Nketiah and supported by Jorginho—was thoroughly disrupting Guardiola's superior squad. We were not undone by the absence of Partey or of Jesus. We did not succumb to the kind of dropped heads and shrugged shoulders of years past. After going behind because of our own error rather than any ingenuity on City's part, we equalised, and, in truth, were unlucky not to take a lead into halftime. City didn't earn this result; we gifted it to them. That's a troubling sign, of course, but the silver lining is that we stared them straight in the eye, took a few to the chin, and still came out meriting something more than we ended up with. 

For those fretting over the lede to this post, consider this: Jorginho leads the post-match MOTM poll as of this writing with 36% of the vote. That, and the afore-mentioned stats for City, suggest that we have a more-than-capable deputy for Partey. What's more, we've avoided triggering a longer-term spell on the sidelines for our first-choice #6. Had we started him, we might have found a rather-Pyrrhic victory, taking a point or three from this match only to see him sidelined for weeks on end, potentially derailing not only our chance at a Prem title or Europa League glory but a Champions League spot.

Titles are not won in February. For as dispiriting as it feels to slump in this way, there is life yet in this squad. They showed it here when other squads would have folded. collapsing in on themselves like a house of cards. 

Yeah, this loss hurts. We missed a chance at making a dramatic declaration of our intent. Yeah, we're no long top of of the table...but we do have a game in hand and, what's more, the knowledge that we can square up to the best squad money can buy (legally or otherwise) without two of our best players and still come within a few punches of a knockout or at least a TKO. I know full-well that I'm frequently guilty of too much optimism, but I don't think it's unfounded in this case. But for a few misplaced passes, we could have come away with a creditable draw or a dramatic win. That's the way the ball bounces sometimes.

City didn't do anything special here. Sure, they pounced on a few errors, and we flubbed most of our best chances. Still, the margins here were still so narrow that we'd not be wrong to take some positivity out of the result all the same. 

The title-chase isn't over by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, it's only just begun.
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