It wasn’t the greatest game that Arsenal will have ever taken part in. But the 2-1 win in the Europa League group stages over Austria Vienna was significant for a couple of reasons other than chalking up a victory on the road for Mikel Arteta’s men.
The game in Austria, played in front of 3,000 fans at the hosts’ Generali Arena, marked the debut of midfield ace Thomas Partey. And it is fair to say that the industrious enforcer had a dazzling first game for the Gunners.
He had come on for the North London side in the 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in the Premier League last week, of course, but last night the capture from Atletico Madrid (for around £45million just before the transfer deadline window closed) gave a welcoming glimpse of what fans can expect as the season unfolds.
He was everywhere from the first minute to the last in an entertaining encounter. Fountas gave the home side the lead just after the break when Bernd Leno got in a fix with his feet and the attacker rifled home. But David Luiz restored parity on 70 minutes before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made it 2-1 four minutes later. And that’s how it remained.
Partey, who has 30 international caps for his native Ghana, proved he could fulfil a double role of being able to launch attacks as well as break them down when it comes to the opposition. He has a fine range of passing, a determined attitude when it comes to winning the ball back and generally sets the tone for the pace of how things are orchestrated.
On more than one occasion he has been called “the new Patrick Vieira” and it is a huge tag to have given the impact the France star had when he was with the Gunners under former manager Arsene Wenger. But Partey showed that he may well be able to fill the big boots formerly filled by the colossus that patrolled the Arsenal midfield.
The Arsenal gaffer was excited by his newest player’s performance in the triumph. He said:
“I think he held the midfield by himself in the second half when we were a little bit more open. He started to take more chances attacking certain spaces with some players.I think he was fantastic and there is much more to come from him.”
Other pundits’ plaudits that came for the schemer included, “pure class”, “versatile and tactically astute” and “balanced and technically very good”.
The second reason for the significance of the victory was the performance of Gabriel, another recent recruit who joined the Gunners from Lille for £27million. He was absolutely solid and was easily the away side’s man of the match. At last, it seems, Arsenal have some steel in the ranks.