Arsenal have been one of the most active Premier League clubs during the ongoing summer transfer window. The Gunners have bolstered their squad with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fabio Vieira, as the aforementioned stars fit within the plans of Mikel Arteta and fill the voids that prevented them from securing Champions League football for the new season.
Furthermore, the North-London club has also welcomed back the Ligue 1’s best young player of the season, namely, William Saliba, who returned from a season-long loan spell spent at Olympique de Marseille. Saliba already looks ready to partner Gabriel Magalhaes in the center of defence, replacing England international Ben White, who would most likely be set for competition with his Japanese counterpart in Takehiro Tomiyasu. Yes, you get it right, the competition would fierce at Arsenal.
With that being said, the red-and-white side is yet to complete its squad for the new season. Club’s representatives might be looking for a Saka deputy and most importantly, a replacement for the Ghanaian Thomas Partey, who, unfortunately, doesn’t have a good record with injuries, while his teammates struggle without him being on the pitch. BTL takes a look at three suitable and realistic profiles who could reduce the damages of Partey’s absentees to the minimum and give Arsenal a reliable backup in midfield:
1. Khephren Thuram
We start with OGC Nice defensive midfielder Khephren Thuram. Disregarding the fact of him being known as the son of Juventus legend and 1998 world champion Lillian Thuram, the 21-year-old still managed to make a name for himself in France thanks to his amazing performances in Ligue 1 during the last few seasons.
Khephren might be the best option for Arsenal due to his similarities with Partey but also due to his youth which makes him a player who would not only become a deputy for the central defensive midfielder role at Arsenal but also to step by step take up the torch from the 29-year-old Ghana international, imposing himself as his long-term successor.
The problem here is that the French club consider Khephren as non-transferable at the moment, yet they would most likely change their minds if Arsenal comes up with a convincing offer, with Khephren being valued at only 17 million euros by Transfermarkt, which makes him very affordable for the 12-time Premier League champions.
What makes Thomas Partey essential for the Gunners is his mixture of technique and physical strength and his ability to play a role both offensively and defensively, and Thuram can do that as well, proved by his 73.4% long passing accuracy, 1.23 successful dribbles (66.7%), 1.23 tackles and 33.1% successful pressures, all per 90, compared to Thomas’ 75.7%, 1.23 (70.7%), 1.95 and 36.8%, respectively.
Khephren might offer more attacking solutions to Arteta, with the Frenchman outmatching Partey in terms of expected assists (0.12 vs 0.06 per 90) and ball progression (300.35 total carrying distance vs 209.45, 6.72 progressive carries vs 3.82 and 2.84 carries to the final third vs 1.23, all per 90), but he nevertheless has three years left on his contract and Lucien Favre’s side will be looking to keep hold of him as they look to build on last season’s fifth-place finish under Christophe Galtier.
2. William Carvalho
Real Betis’ midfielder William Carvalho has enjoyed a resurgence under Manuel Pellegrini over the past year, racking up 33 appearances as Real Betis finished fifth in the table, and defeated Zenit before losing to eventual champions Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, whilst they have also claimed their first major piece of silverware in 17 years by defeating Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final. The 30-year-old is one of the closest players to Thomas Partey in terms of style, at least according to the eye test, so let’s take an in-depth look to figure out how close the two profiles are in terms of statistics.
Quality-wise, the two CDMs share quite similar numbers when it comes to long passing (78.8%, for Carvalho compared to Partey’s 75.7%) dribbling (70.7% both), dribbles tackled (47.6% vs 43.2%), aerial duels (48.1% vs 46.3%), shot-creating actions (2.24 vs 2.17 per 90) and – a bit less – successful pressures (30.8% vs 36.8%).
Yet, the Portugal international and his Ghanaian counterpart have some differences when talking about quantity, with the former averaging better numbers in terms of passing and dribbling, while the latter takes the edge in ball recovering.
William Carvalho might turn out to be a great option for the Gunners to have at their bench. The experienced midfielder will make Arsenal fans worry way less about Partey’s injuries.
3. Emre Can
At 28 years old, Emre Can has played for Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen, having spent the past 2.5 years with Borussia Dortmund, but the German international has waned in importance with new manager Edin Terzić preferring Mahmoud Dahoud and Jude Bellingham in the double pivot.
After a brief cameo in their opening day 1-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen, Can was an unused substitute in BVB’s following match, a 3-1 win vs. Freiburg, and with his contract set to expire in 2024, he could be set for a departure away from the Signal Iduna within the near future. He could be just what Arsenal need in a deputy to Partey.
Can’s versatility should also be taken into account, being able to cover almost, if not, every defensive position in addition to midfield, but it is worth mentioning that the Germany international has recently struggled with injuries as well. As is the case of William Carvalho, he also shares some similar success numbers with Partey either in long passing (69.8%), dribbling (an outstanding 77.8%), or successful tackles (1.89 per 90) or in successful pressures (36.6%). While he averages less good numbers in shot-creating actions and xA (a poor 0.73 and 0.04 per 90, respectively) because he played a big part of the season as a centre-back.
On the other hand, the Portuguese midfielder stands out in the air, winning 64% of his aerial duels, and his 0.16 xG and +0.09 Goals-xG per 90 makes him an additional goalscoring threat for the opposing side. For context, Partey averages 0.11 xG and -0.03 Goals-xG per game.
Arsenal would be wise to consider a move for Khephren Thuram if they want to invest in a both short and long-term solution, but William Carvalho and Emre Can could also be intriguing short-term fits and players who can provide immense experience and a willing deputy behind Thomas Partey.
By: Karim Bouaicha / @IamKarimB
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Soccrates Images / Getty Images