Ian Wright hails Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal game-changer Thomas Partey

Arsenal moved up to eighth in the table following a 3-1 win over Southampton
Arsenal moved up to eighth in the table following a 3-1 win over Southampton (Picture: Getty)

Ian Wright hailed the influence of Thomas Partey following Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Southampton which moved Arsenal up to eighth in the congested Premier League table and into Champions League qualifying contention.

The Gunners were beaten at St Mary’s on Saturday, surrendering the FA Cup trophy they won back in the summer.

Manager Mikel Arteta encountered heavy criticism for resting several key players in that defeat, but his decision was ultimately vindicated as the likes of Bukayo Saka and Alexnadre Lacazette played key roles in last night’s victory.

Headline summer signing Partey has endured a difficult start to his Arsenal career but, having returned to full fitness following one aborted comeback attempt in early December, his influence has grown in recent weeks.

The Ghana international put in another outstanding display at the heart of Arsenal’s engine room last night and although Saka and Lacazette stole the headlines with goals and assists, Gunners legend Wright was quick to praise the role the former Atletico Madrid played in a significant win.

Thomas Partey limped off with an injury during Arsenal's win over Southampton
Thomas Partey limped off with an injury during Arsenal’s win over Southampton (Picture: Getty)

He told Premier League Productions: ‘He’s a game-changer simply because of the way he plays in midfield. He’s somebody who does not pass the ball sideways.

‘He wants to pass it forwards and that gets everybody forwards. If you’ve got people like Emile Smith Rowe and Saka in the area where they can pick up the ball and go forwards, run with it and progress it then all of a sudden you’ve got their defenders going backwards.

‘You’ve got people starting to make runs and you are starting to create which we weren’t doing a few weeks back.’

Partey limped off with what looked like cramp in the closing stages which would have been a worry to Arteta ahead of Saturday’s crunch clash against Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.

On the condition of the £45million midfielder, he said: ‘From Saturday, just to make it clear, we had five players who were not available to play. We made seven changes and five of them were because they were not ready to play the game.

‘KT was one of them and Thomas was another, and you could see today that he could not last for 60 minutes, so we have to manage those players, to protect them. Sometimes they are not fit but I cannot explain every single day how every player is feeling.

‘We don’t know, we don’t know. He was feeling some discomfort and hopefully it’s nothing, but he was struggling.’

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