Mikel Arteta has sprung an early selection surprise this season by fielding Thomas Partey at right-back for Arsenal.

£45 million defensive midfielder Thomas Partey has been deployed at right-back for each of Arsenal’s two Premier League games so far this season. This move has come at the expense of Gabriel Magalhaes’ place in the starting XI.

This tactical change has generated plenty of discussion, and it hasn’t been an overwhelming success so far. Partey has looked decent in the role, but no more, and the Gunners’ build-up play has been stilted in these early Premier League clashes.

Despite speculation around Gabriel’s future at the Emirates Stadium, Mikel Arteta has stated that the decision to leave the Brazilian out has been a purely tactical one. The Spanish coach said, “it’s about the games that we were expecting, that I was expecting, how I wanted to defend and attack and what I believed was the best thing,” as quoted by Hayters.

Why Pele Is Overrated.

Leicester City v Arsenal FC - Premier League
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

How Saka benefits from Partey playing at right-back for Arsenal

Ben White excelled at right-back last season, striking up a great on-field connection with Bukayo Saka. Despite being fielded as a centre-back at Selhurst Park, White still popped up on the right flank to combine with the winger at times. Meanwhile, Partey also pushed forward into that part of the pitch, but tucked in to a more inverted role.

This is the extra support for Saka that deploying Partey as a full-back generates, with White still given the license to push forward. The 45-cap Ghana international is comfortable enough on the ball to have an impact in this area of the pitch, and has the defensive nous to guard against counter-attacks and win the ball back quickly should possession be lost.

As Arsenal’s talismanic attacker, opposition defenders consistently gang up on Saka in an effort to crowd him out. With Partey, White, and indeed Martin Odegaard on hand to support and interact with the 21-year-old, it is harder for opponents to stifle Saka’s influence.

Against Crystal Palace, Saka, Odegaard, Partey, and White often formed a kind of box shape on the right flank, playing close together. This allowed them to swiftly move the ball between one another, and press as a cohesive unit to win it back.

It may not be a long-term ploy that Arteta persists with, and it still hasn’t fully clicked into gear, but the notion of having Partey and White both fulfilling right-back duties in an attacking sense at the same time could lead to Saka becoming an even more effective offensive force.

Related Topics