Arsenal confirmed on their official website today that Thomas Partey will miss the game against Leeds United on Sunday.
The Ghanaian limped off injured against Aston Villa last week with what Mikel Arteta described as a muscular issue. Further examination has revealed that he has suffered a hamstring injury, and he is certain to miss the game this weekend.
Arteta now has a difficult decision to make. Granit Xhaka and Partey were forming an excellent partnership in the middle of our park. The pair would have been ideal against Leeds, but sadly, it will not be the case.
Who should start in place of the Ghanaian? Is Mohamed Elneny the best option we have or should Martin Odegaard be given his first start as a number eight?
We think Dani Ceballos should be given the nod ahead of everyone else.
Ceballos should start next Xhaka
The Spaniard might not be the midfield destroyer that Partey is, but he is a brilliant option against a free-flowing side like Leeds United.
The Whites will press every player to retain the possession once they lose it. Arsenal need someone who can beat that press and carry the ball forward, and nobody but Partey and Ceballos can do that from central midfield.
Elneny is a good player to shield the backline but he offers very little in attack. Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe are way too attack-minded and their positional discipline will come into question if they are paired up alongside Xhaka.
Ceballos will offer us the right balance between attack and defence. He has the quality to retain possession under pressure, he has the dribbling skills to drive forward and he has the vision to pick a pass that would set our attackers free.
How good was Ceballos against Leeds in the reverse fixture?
The Real Madrid man fared pretty well against the Whites in November. We played almost half the game with 10 men, and Ceballos did very well defensively – even though his main strengths are higher up the pitch.
The Spaniard made four tackles, two interceptions and two clearances. He also won 10 out of his 14 attempted ground duels and no Leeds player managed to dribble past him in the entire game. (SofaScore)
Those are really impressive numbers considering that we were a man short for most of the second half.
Ceballos, labelled a ‘highly skilful player’ by Arteta, should start in Partey’s position on Saturday. He offers us better balance than all of our other available options, and we’ll have the best chance of winning the game if he features in the middle of our park.