With under 24 hours until the North London Derby kicks off and Arsenal take on Spurs in their stadium, with 2000 of their fans allowed in, people are wondering who will be selected for the starting lineup.
The two matchups with Tottenham are two matchups that every Arsenal fan’s eyes scan the fixture list to find when the schedule is first released. Anyone who says different is either lying or unaware of the history that makes this rivalry so heated. Getting one over on them, taking points in their stadium, going to their turf and painting north London red is enough to bring everyone passion to a peak. A result that can do that is just what Arsenal need at the moment.
Arsenal have struggled in the league lately — everyone is aware. Their midfield seems in disarray and overrun in their last three diabolical performances. Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising. Last season, Arteta made a major switch after the break to move to a three-back system to add an extra defender and limit the role the midfield played in heading up the attack. It wasn’t until the signing of Thomas Partey that returning to a four-back system seemed plausible. So when Partey went off at halftime of the eventual loss to Aston Villa, the ability to play within that system may have hobbled off with him.
Arsenal fans have been pining for information surrounding Partey’s health since his injury before the international break, and the lack of a timetable for his return has only made the matter more worrying. 2-3 weeks? Up to 6 weeks? Possibly not back until after the New Year? A lot of messages were spread, but little clarity offered. For the most part that has to do with the type of injury he received. With thigh injuries, players and teams often have difficulty judging the rehab. It can be a fickle injury, and one that can have multiple set backs if rushed.
The thigh generates a lot of running power and that explosive movement is needed for any athlete to compete. However, rushing the usage of those explosive movements lead to re-injury. Players often need to have a complete rest period, which leads clubs to cautiously reintroduce them to activity.
A few days ago, Arteta stated that he was worried Partey’s extended absence would continue, but he never ruled him out. Yesterday, Arteta shared a bit more confidence in Partey’s health, but didn’t confirm anything. Today, while there has not been any confirmation, Partey is visibly present in the background of a picture from Arsenal’s training ground!
Take a peak over the Joe Willock’s right shoulder (his right, your left). I spy a Partey!
It doesn’t confirm that he is a viable option for tomorrow. It doesn’t mean he will get the start, but it does mean his health is returning and that there is a CHANCE he does return for this match.
He’s not a silver bullet for Arsenal’s struggles, but he is a quality midfield player that inevitably enables Arteta to expand the roles his midfield can play.
Knowing Jose Mourinho is content to sit back and have his side pick and choose their opportunities to get involved in the attack, having a solid central player to cut out counters, cover ground box-to-box, and offer a positive, progressive presence in the side would go a long way to raising the midfield play.
Whether Arteta would then opt for a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, or the 3-4-3 he deployed against Manchester United would be the next question. It’s very possible we would see a side attempting to play in a similar fashion as they did against Rapid Vienna during the midweek match.
If Partey cannot play tomorrow, it would be a hit to the side, but a positive notion that his return is near.