Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is set to miss at least the first two games of the new Premier League season.
The Ghana international suffered a suspected ankle injury in the first half of the Gunners’ 2-1 pre-season defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, and Mikel Arteta initially feared the worst.
“I just had a talk with the doc,” the Arsenal manager told reporters. “He’ll have a scan tomorrow. At the moment it’s not looking good.”
However, there has been some good news for the Spaniard with football.london reporting that Partey is only expected to miss the opening two games of the season against Brentford and Chelsea.
Furthermore, there is optimism that he could return sooner than expected if his recovery goes to plan.
With a trip to Manchester City also on the horizon, this development is certainly better news for the Gunners as facing the Premier League champions is a daunting task and one that will be made even more difficult without their best central midfielder.
Should Partey, as expected, miss games against Brentford and Chelsea, Arteta will most likely turn to Mohamed Elneny to deputise alongside Granit Xhaka.
This is based on 10 team selections last season when the Ghana international was out injured and especially as Dani Ceballos is no longer an option after returning to Real Madrid following his loan spell.
Alternatively, Arteta could turn to Joe Willock to partner Xhaka – but that is dependent on whether the England Under-21 international is still an Arsenal player come August 13, as he’s been linked with a return to Newcastle United.
Although, summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga is an intriguing option in central midfield if Arteta deems that the 21-year-old is ready to be thrown straight into the deep end.
The Belgian caught the eye of many Arsenal fans with an impressive cameo performance against the Blues on Sunday and has already delivered his verdict on his best position.
“I can play both. I can play both, I can play as a six and I can play like a box to box, but yeah, people say that I’m better in the six position,” he told Arsenal.com after completing his £15million transfer from Anderlecht.
Now, unless Arteta is planning on switching to a 4-3-3 system, Lokonga won’t get the chance to play in the six position, which is at the base of a midfield trio.
But the box-to-box role alongside Xhaka in a 4-2-3-1 formation could be perfect, because, as per who scored, Lokonga’s strengths include passing, through balls, dribbling, long shots and interceptions.
For the final 20 minutes against Chelsea, Arsenal fans got a glimpse of the Lokonga and Xhaka double pivot with the latter sitting deeper allowing the 21-year-old to get on the ball.
It lead to one of the Gunners’ best moves of the game as Lokonga’s brilliant pass for Nicolas Pepe eventually resulted in Willock seeing an effort appear to cross the line – but was denied an equaliser due to the absence of goal-line technology at the Emirates.
But in that one sequence, Lokonga proved he can help Arsenal move the ball from back to front quicker, which is something they will struggle with if Elneny, for example, gets the nod.
Of course, stepping up from the Belgian league to the Premier League is a massive ask, but all signs suggest the 21-year-old is ready for the challenge.
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Source by Football London