Arsenal are in the middle of a major overhaul. Coming into the summer, they were in need of massive renovations to the midfield, the backline, and there were even questions marks around the future of their most stable producers. It’s hard to say that the overhaul is complete, or that it’s close to being done. There are quite a few pieces missing, or ones that have yet to be seen in action, but a kind Gooner could say half-complete, or maybe even two-thirds complete.
It’s exciting stuff, and it certainly will have many people looking forward to Saturday’s matchup with Manchester City and the first opportunity to potentially see their brand new midfielder, which is an interesting thought considering Thomas Partey just signed for Arsenal on October 5th, and immediately jetted off for international duty with Ghana.
To be ready to trot out in a Mikel Arteta side, playing in a system that is likely quite different from Atletico Madrid’s, is an impressive feat. Arteta commented on the subject in today’s press conference.
“Well he was here just yesterday, he is getting familiar with everything around the club. Today he will have his first training session, so everything has to come really quickly for him.”
“We knew that before we signed him that he is fit, he is very willing to start playing and we will see how he goes in the next few days.”
To even be considered as someone that could be ready at such short notice with such limited time, is a testament to Partey. It’s this aspect of bedding into the team, adjusting to the Premier League and performing as a new player on a team that interests me about this summer’s business.
In one window, Arsenal have now acquired a new player in each phase of a player’s career that Arsenal are hoping will produce on the pitch in their own way.
As a spectator, we get to observe from the outside how each attempts to rise to the occasion and establish themselves. William Saliba is 19, Gabriel 23, new man Partey is 27, and Willian is 32. A budding prospect, one trying to break onto the scene, a player in his prime, and a veteran looking to extend their value and stay in the game.
Each of these players move teams in their own way, and it tells you a lot about them. Saliba has struggled to get minutes, may not be fully ready, and has bounced from someone destined to be loaned to someone staying…at least until January. After impressing many in his performance against MK Dons, he hasn’t seemed to push on in the eyes of the coach. There are suggestions that some personal live issues are also playing a role in Saliba’s unsettled nature, which is something no one could fault him for.
A little older than him is Gabriel, who may be adjusting better than anyone would have foreseen. He took a little bit of a knock when he returned to be bench once Luiz was able to play, however, with every moment Gabriel plays, he solidifies himself as the defender Arsenal fans hoped he would be and then some. Strong into tackles, aerially fantastic, only a few ear mistakes that seemingly were down to chemistry and communication, and collected a Player of the Month award in September for Arsenal.
Even 4 years older, we see a player whose career has already led him through quite a few teams. Avai FC in Brazil, Lille, Troyes, back to Lille, Dinamo Zagreb, and back to Lille before his mov to Arsenal. Couple those moves with a player that has been forced to seize his chances and make the most of them and we can see a more a mature player ready for the challenge.
Conversely, Saliba moved from youth teams to Etienne’s youth team before this transfer to Arsenal. Such a large switch is something he has never had to do in his very young career. But does a player need to move teams in order to mentally know they can make a switch like this?
Continuing up the ladder, Thomas Partey has agreed to give his prime years to The Gunners. At 27, he will be expected to hit the ground running and make an instant impact in the midfield. However, he has made very few changes within his career as well. Spending most his time as a part of Atletico Madrid’s B-team, he did have two stints with Mallorca and UD Almeria — both of whom are still within Spain. It was exactly cross-continental travel, but the acclimation skills needed may translate.
We will have to wait and see how Partey’s switch goes, but early signs from Mikel may suggest we won’t have to worry. “He hasn’t trained with us yet, he will have the first training session today but he got to know some of his team-mates. Not all of them, because some are still on international duty but we will have everyone back today and it will be a good day for him to get to know everyone.”
While it is early days, it seems as though Arteta isn’t overly concerned with Partey’s ability to adjust. After all, he is already considering playing Partey this weekend against Manchester City. “Let’s see. He needs to do a training session today first. We’ll see how he goes in the next 48 hours and then we’ll make a decision as to whether he plays or not.”
So, you’re saying there’s a chance?!
Additionally, Partey’s maturity as a player that develops over time is there. It’s why we see and expect someone like Willian to not bat an eye at his move to Arsenal from Chelsea. Not only does Willian offer the maturity of a player that is 32, his career has seen him move teams, bed in, find success wherever he went, and acclimate to new teams.
Arsenal already experience a debut match with 2 assists, although he has slowed down in his recent performances. The comfort is there, it just takes a little bit to build a bond with the players around you on the pitch. Against Sheffield United we saw him slot into a true central role in the second half, as he looked to exchange with Bukayo Saka on the left wing. That versatility and comfort in multiple roles will surely play a critical role in his own adaptation to life under Arteta, as well as, helping bring others in the game.
Adapting is hard. It can feel lonely. You can feel isolated or unsupported. Many players have struggled to cope with such a large move in their own career. There are examples through the history of football, but look no further than Lucas Torreira. A great player that never quite fit into the side, never fell in love with London, dealt with volatile coaching club staff changes, and consequently has been loaned out and will likely be sold.
So, how hard is it to adjust to the Premier League? Let’s hear from Arteta, a man that has done it himself.
“I think it is something very individual, depending on many factors. How they settle first of all here in the city with their family, whether they speak the language or not, whether their qualities fit the team and the Premier League more straight away or if they need some adaptation and some development in those areas. It is very particular, you see some players adapt really quickly and some others taking a long time.”
It’s fascinating to see the full spectrum of age ranges all within the same transfer window. Following their adaptation will be an interesting aspect of this whole season.