In  Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey’s last appearance for Ghana, he scored a decisive goal. It guaranteed the Black Stars a spot at the 2022 World Cup. Even better, it came against the side’s fiercest rivals, Nigeria.

His first Arsenal goal in the 2022-23 campaign was scored in similar fashion. The midfielder sent a rocket of a shot from outside the 18-yard box into the top right corner. It was the first of the Gunners’ three in a victory over the club’s North London rivals. It was also Nigerian Independence Day.

Partey is arguably the most important player for his club and country. But, his recent run with injuries makes him unreliable.

When asked to grade his time as a Gunner, the defensive midfielder was blunt.

“Personally, I would say five or six (out of 10). But, with the marks of the (fans) also, I would give myself four. There are moments in a game when I can really hurt the other team but there are also moments where, because I’m not yet adapted to the Premier League, maybe I lose a bit of focus and that’s when everything goes down.”

Thomas Partey’s injuries with Arsenal, Ghana

While the Atletico Madrid academy product is critical about his performances, many highlight his absences as the biggest reason for his lackluster time in London. During his last three seasons in Madrid, the Europa League winner averaged playing in 33 league matches a year. Since making the move to Arsenal he only plays in 24 league matches a season.

One of the reasons why the Gunners fell out of top-four contention during the end of last season was due to injuries to Partey, left-back Kieran Tierney and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu. While Arsenal signed Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City to improve their cover for Tierney and center-back Benjamin White has been impressive in his new role as a right-back, they failed to sign another defensive midfielder. On transfer deadline day, they tried to acquire Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa but were unsuccessful.

During international break, Partey was slated to start against Brazil. He was pulled minutes before the match began due to a niggling issue in his knee. Afterwards, he returned to London to seek further treatment. Some Black Stars fans were upset seeing Partey starting a week after being missing out on national team duty. Since Otto Addo has been named Ghana’s head coach, Partey has only played in two of the eight matches.

Because of this, the Black Stars are heading into the World Cup with a question mark in midfield. Addo has experimented with different formations during his time, but it seems like he favors the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. In both formations, Partey is crucial as the pivot who breaks up play with positioning and well-timed tackles, helps to orchestrate in build-up play and occasionally making runs to serve as an outlet in the final third.

Potential this year

In 2010, Ghana faced a similar problem. Michael Essien was their rock in midfield but missed the World Cup due to a knee injury. However, they had adequate replacements in Kevin-Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari, Anthony Annan and Kwadwo Asamoah. This time around the Black Stars only have Mallorca’s Iddrisu Baba as an option in the pivot role. Ajax’s Mohamed Kudus and Freiburg’s Daniel-Kofi Kyereh are very good box-to-box players but lack the physique to do the dirty work consistently.

If the two-time Ghana Player of the Year can stay healthy, then Arsenal and the Black Stars will be able to maximize their potential on their perspective campaigns. However, if the 29-year-old continues to suffer from ailments then this club and country will suffer from poor planning.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Pro Sports Images