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Arteta may already have a clever plan to replace Partey during AFCON - Opinion

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal are expected to be without Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny for a few weeks in January and February due to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The former Atletico Madrid star is an undisputed starter at the Emirates when he’s fit. He is one of our most important players and his potential absence will be a huge blow for us early next year, especially if Ghana go all the way in the competition.

If Partey and Elneny both head out on international duty, Arsenal will only have Granit Xhaka, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in holding midfield. That’s not enough options at all, but Mikel Arteta may already have a clever plan to solve the potential issue.

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Could Miguel Azeez cover for Partey during AFCON?

Arsenal wonderkid Miguel Azeez joined Portsmouth on loan in the summer. The teenager is a phenomenal talent who is destined for great things at the Emirates, but his opportunity could well come this season.

Pompey boss Danny Cowley revealed this week that Arsenal have inserted an option to recall Azeez from his loan spell at any point this season. That’s pretty standard in most loan deals these days, but Arteta may have pushed for this clause for one key reason.

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If Partey and Elneny will both miss about a month due to AFCON, Arsenal will be extremely short in the middle of our park. That’s not ideal at all in a very crucial stage of the season, which is where Azeez could come in.

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The teenager is one of Hale End’s most talented players. He has impressed in every age group he has ever played in, including the first team where he was given a short run out by Arteta in the Europa League last season.

A holding midfielder by trade, Azeez is a complete player. He is excellent with the ball at his feet, his vision is fantastic, his dribbling skills are impressive and he has a stunning shot on him as well.

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There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Azeez will be a top player for Arsenal one day. It’s still unlikely that the Gunners will recall him in January, but if Partey and Elneny head out for international duty and we don’t sign a new midfielder, the teenager could be a very clever option.

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