Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes Mikel Arteta “needs” to start midfielder Thomas Partey against Tottenham to avoid a repeat of the Manchester United game. The Gunners lost to the Red Devils without the Ghanaian international and face the possible prospect of the same happening in the north London derby this weekend.
While the game holds its usual importance among fans and playing staff, the great start made by both clubs only adds the stakes to such a huge clash at the Emirates on Saturday. Arsenal sit top of the Premier League with six wins and one loss from their opening seven games.
As for Spurs, they are third, yet to taste defeat in the Premier League but with five wins and two draws from their first seven this season. While it’s still early days, both teams will have their title credentials tested amid talk of either side competing right at the top come the end of the campaign.
Arteta goes into the derby with a few injury concerns though, one of which is over key midfielder Partey. While on international duty with Ghana, he was named in the team to play the friendly against Brazil but had to be withdrawn and subsequently returned early with a concern over his knee.
It remains to be seen if he will be fit enough to feature, but Smith believes he needs to start if Arsenal are to get a positive result. Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “[Thomas] Partey is a big concern. He is so important to that Arsenal team and to that midfield.
“We saw without him against Manchester United there were big holes in that midfield that allowed [Bruno] Fernandes to put those balls through. I don’t think that would have happened with Partey in the team and you don’t want to be reliant on one player quite to this extent, he is so important.
“Mo Elneny is out for a period of time so they are short in midfield. They need Partey in there and that could tip the balance. With him they are so much more of a solid side able to support that talented attack.”
It remains to be seen whether the midfielder will be available, but his importance to the side cannot be understated ahead of a match of such magnitude.