Thomas Partey may hold key to new Arsenal after Arteta's breakthrough moment

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has been striving to find his best formation this season.

After settling on a back five early in the season, the Gunners have struggled for creativity.

A move to a 4-3-3 formation against Leeds United last weekend saw them still fire blanks in a 0-0 draw.

But the Spaniard may now have stumbled across a solution – and one which could work wonders for summer signing Thomas Partey.

Mikel Arteta has been striving to find Arsenal’s best formation this season

Plenty of excitement surrounding Partey’s £45million deadline day arrival.

At the time, it was reported that Mikel Arteta would look to move to a 4-3-3 formation thanks to the characteristics of the Ghanaian.

He was absent against Leeds as that did not do the trick, and he was again not present for their 3-0 win over Molde in the Europa League.

Yet the Europa League victory could prove to be a turning point both for Arsenal and Partey after Arteta stumbled across what could be a winning formula.

Far from against the best quality of opposition, Arsenal’s back four were, predictably, rarely troubled in Norway.

Granit Xhaka was able to hold things together in midfield, giving Joe Willock freedom in a midfield two as he provided two assists.

Arsenal’s youngsters dazzled in attack in a more expansive system against Molde

In front of them, Nicolas Pepe dazzled whilst Alexandre Lacazette, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah were all lively in a front four.

The freedom given to the four attacking players worked wonders, with Pepe in dangerous areas, Nketiah hovering in the box and Nelson given plenty of freedom to roam around.

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It is easy to see those positions suiting Arsenal’s more established attackers, getting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into more goalscoring positions having found himself isolated at times this season.

The role played by the lively Nelson could also suit Willian, who has blown hot and cold since his summer arrival.

The key question with the formation against Molde, resembling a 4-4-2, would be whether Arsenal find themselves exposed against sides with more attacking capabilities.

Arsenal are into the Europa League knockout stages having won their first four group matches
Joe Willock (middle) has dazzled in the Europa League but has limitations in a midfield two

Joe Willock has shone in the Europa League and is carving out an increasing role, but he is far from known for his defensive work.

Partey, on the other hand, could well provide the perfect balance to slot in alongside Xhaka and offer some defensive stability as well as the same attacking intent.

After the game, Arteta said: “We have to make sure we control better” – something he will hope Partey can provide.

His engine as a box-to-box midfielder could enable him to make some of the same advancing runs which saw Willock cause problems against Molde and create space for his team-mates.

Yet the Ghanaian also has the physical capacity to pull his weight defensively and in transition to ensure Arteta’s back line are not left exposed.

Thomas Partey could be key to making Arsenal’s more expansive formation work against better opposition

Speaking when he signed Partey, Arteta declared: “I think he allows us to play different formations and he can fit in within those formations in different positions, which is a really good thing to have in a squad where, in midfield, I think we were a little bit short.

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“I have a few things in mind that I want to start to train with the team and [Partey’s signing] is going to give us a little bit more adaptability and more balance in defending and attacking transitions and the way we have to set up certain structures to attack better in certain moments of the game.”

Whilst personnel will change and opponents will be tougher, starting against Wolves on Sunday, Arteta might have finally found the best formation to fit his squad.

And club legend Martin Keown also believes a back four with genuine width in attack is the answer in the long run.

“I just liked the system,” Keown told BT Sport after the game.

“As a player, I never really liked playing in a back five as I felt like we were stuck in and couldn’t really get out.

“I feel for the front players who have to track all the way back to be in touch with their wing backs.

“When it’s a back four, I think there’s a better structure to the team and I believe that’s the future for Arsenal.

“He might want to go back to a back five, but it’s about finding that winning formula and getting the right balance.

“Tonight, there was a good balance to their play.”


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