On paper, it appeared Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey would be overwhelmed at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The midfield diamond picked by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the potential to dominate the match through sheer numbers – four versus two. By full-time, though, the match had panned out entirely differently, with Elneny and Partey integral to a win over Manchester United.
Partey in particular caught the eye, proving why the Gunners paid £45million on deadline day to sign him from Atletico Madrid. Only Elneny made more passes (65) than the Ghanaian (60) against United (as per WhoScored). Partey also registered four tackles and two interceptions, and completed five out of five long passes.
No player on the pitch made more dribbles (four) than Partey, illustrating how the 27-year-old cannot be classified as an orthodox defensive midfielder. While he primarily positions himself at the base of the central unit, in front of the back four, Partey likes to carry the ball up the pitch, either through dribbling or through a pass from deep.
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“He was really good,” Mikel Arteta said when asked about Partey’s performance in the win at Old Trafford (as per The Boot Room). “I wouldn’t like to go into individuals. They all contributed a lot. I’m glad that whoever I pick is giving absolutely everything and they play with a lot of courage.”
Rather than being overwhelmed by Manchester United in the centre of the pitch, Arsenal showed their best qualities. Contrast the performance of Partey with that of Paul Pogba. While one proved his worth, the other underlined why so many view him as unworthy of the £89m price tag placed on his head four years ago.
A big part of Pogba’s problem at United is down to his identity as a player, in that nobody really seems to know what his best role is on the pitch. The Frenchman’s natural ability is…