Arsenal

Arsenal have already secured Thomas Partey’s ‘replacement’ with £17.2m signing despite criticism

Arsenal have Thomas Partey's 'replacement' secured after £17.2m deal despite calls for Edu to overspend on a 'new toy.'

There is something which a lot of Arsenal fans, I feel, suffer from at times, especially during the transfer window. It is a process by which the possibility of signing a new player will supersede all possible avenues for existing talent to be considered.

Arsenal supporters, I invite you to consider ‘the new toy syndrome.’ Transfers are exciting, evocative and most of all stressful. From the perspective of someone whose life has been near devoted to discussing Arsenal’s potential ins and outs, it is one hell of an experience.

However, the one thing I have always found affecting the opinions of some relating to the existing players at the club is the potential for a new one to take their place. The Arsenal central midfield is one such position where this has dominated and been to the detriment of the current crop of options.

Granit Xhaka is a player with faults, there is no debate about that. But the desire to see a player with fewer faults has led to a significant lack of appreciation for what Xhaka has done really well and consistently throughout his Arsenal career.

Thomas Partey was signed in 2020 and injuries have affected him. Yet, instead of the consideration to add a competitor to his role, the word ‘replacement’ appears to be latched onto well before anything else.

Partey was our best player in 2022 up until his season-ending affliction. But for some reason, we must, in the eyes of some, get rid of the Ghanaian and bring in someone who can play a whole season without any injury. Which, by the way, is impossible to guarantee.

Partey himself should be the warning. He barely a missed game prior to arriving at the Gunners, but he has been unavailable for more than five times as many matches through injury compared to all his absences of the same type combined before his move to north London.

This is where the 2021 signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga comes in. Bought for a meagre, in today’s market, £17.2 million, he was not expected to be the saviour of the Arsenal midfield.

A young, hungry player with leadership qualities from his time as captain at Anderlecht. He came in and shone. He was the best midfielder at the club up until he was dropped for the matches against Manchester United and Everton.

Xhaka’s return from a serious knee injury and Partey’s presence, without European action to offer more games, locked the Belgian out of the team. He had to play one-off games and when Partey was missing come April, the more experienced Mohamed Elneny was preferred. Rightly so, as it turned out, as the Egyptian outperformed expectations.

Yet, for some reason, Lokonga’s performances in the first four months of the season have been forgotten. Now Arsenal need to ‘replace’ Partey according to some. No.

With the benefit of the Europa League group stages, Lokonga is set to get more consistent minutes once again. Not to mention the increase of substitutions in the Premier League from three to five.

This is a kid rated by Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry at the Belgian national side, Vincent Kompany and the clubs that battled the Gunners, including Napoli, for his signing in 2021. Lokonga may not ‘be ready’ to be Arsenal’s starter, but how on Earth he gets there without playing for us I simply do not know.

Midfield remains a key area needing to be strengthened but Youri Tielemans will not take the pathway away from Lokonga, nor would Oleksandr Zinchenko. Partey is the perfect guide for Lokonga, and the position is there to be learned if he is given the chance. And so he should be.

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