Mikel Arteta shared some bad news in his pre-Liverpool press conference: Thomas Partey experienced a setback in his return to training. The midfielder hasn’t trained the past few days because he “felt something” in the same area as the injury that forced him to miss an extended period of time. Arteta said at this point, the club does not know whether the setback would be one that keeps Partey out days or weeks.
Partey has made 4 appearances in the Premier League this season, playing 251 minutes. Since moving to Arsenal, he’s been unavailable for 51 of 136 Premier League matches (38%). He’s started 72 of those 136 (53%). He cannot stay fit. It’s a real disappointment because when he’s healthy and in form, he’s an excellent player that makes the team better.
But he’s moving in the wrong direction. The past two seasons, he’s been fit and a top player for about half to two-thirds of the season but gotten hurt down the stretch. Both times, his absence was sorely felt. Without him (and others) in the lineup, the Gunners twice fell short of achieving what was in their grasp — a Champions League finish two years ago and a Premier League title last year.
One of the most important abilities for a footballer is availability. Thomas Partey is woefully deficient in that category. Prior to moving to North London, he was remarkably consistent fitness-wise. He didn’t miss many matches at all through injury. Unfortunately, that changed once he got to Arsenal, as it can for players moving into their late 20’s and early 30’s. Once guys start to have those soft tissue problems, they tend to reoccur. That seems to be what has happened with Partey.
At this point, you have to treat it as if he’s not going to make a meaningful contribution to the club this season. If he does, that’s great. It’s found money. But you cannot count on him being available.
He’s entering the final year of his contract, too. That’s a rough combo — 30 years old and poor injury history. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays the final year of his contract with the club (or spends it in the training room) and leaves on a free transfer after next year.
There was reportedly interest in his services this summer, but it’s not clear whether that translated into actual offers. It’s also not clear what Arsenal’s stance was — were they willing to sell and the right offer never came or did offers not come because they made it clear he wasn’t for sale. Either way, knowing what they do now, they’d probably like a mulligan on that one.
Hopefully the setback is a minor one and he’ll be available soon. Arsenal are a better team on the pitch with him in the squad. But at this point, I’m not going to hold my breath.