Arsenal’s search for a new central midfielder looked to be heading in failure after a move for Lyon’s Houssem Aouar stalled ahead of deadline day.
The Gunners desperately wanted a new player to bolster their options in the middle of the park, with Aouar seen as the perfect player to inject some much-needed creativity.
Mikel Arteta also wanted a dynamic player to stiffen the spine of his side, alongside Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos.
The number one target was Thomas Partey, who was originally targeted during Unai Emery’s tenure.
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The 27-year-old has established himself as a key player for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in recent seasons, and shone in the La Liga side’s run to the Champions League quarter-final in August.
Partey’s standout display was in the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the round of 16 first leg before the season was interrupted by the COVID19 pandemic.
The midfielder showed exactly why Atletico were so keen to tie him down to a new contract at the club, and why his dramatic departure to Arsenal on deadline day was greeted with frustration.
Against the Premier League champions, Partey was utterly dominant in midfield against Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson.
The Ghanaian won 13 of his 19 duels, completed 13 recoveries, five of which were in his own half and completed five interceptions.
The midfielder also won 100% of all three aerial duels he competed in.
Of Partey’s 34 passes during the game, 27 of them were accurate.
The midfielder was the linchpin that kept a formidable Liverpool attack consisting of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino quiet, with the Reds failing to have a single shot on target throughout the game at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The damage was done, and…