Arsenal’s game at Brighton and Hove Albion later today could provide a definitive answer as to whether Mikel Arteta and Edu’s decisions in the summer were spot on.
The Gunners pair oversaw a busy transfer window to improve the first-team squad, spending £142m on six new players including central midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga from Anderlecht.
And the Belgium international could be handed a start by Arteta at the Amex Stadium in the absence of Granit Xhaka who is set to miss the next three months of action after sustaining a significant injury to his medial knee ligament during the 3-1 North London Derby win over Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday.
If picked in the engine room, Lokonga may come up against a player that was tipped to join Arsenal instead of him or a player that could have been his teammate – in Yves Bissouma.
Now the 25-year-old has emerged as a doubt for the evening kick-off because of a knee problem that caused him to miss Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.
Despite an interesting theory from one Arsenal fan on social media regarding Bissouma’s involvement, Brighton boss Graham Potter has revealed that the midfielder will face a late fitness test.
“Yves Bissouma is making progress but it will be a decision for later on in the week,” Potter said in his pre-match press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Given what happened – or didn’t – in the summer transfer window, one would assume that this is a game Bissouma will be desperate to play in as he could have something to prove to Arteta and Edu.
Following the meeting between the two sides on the final day of last season where Bissouma took a picture with Nicolas Pepe, it seemed he would be the Brighton player Arsenal signed instead of Ben White.
Furthermore, Bissouma seemed to be pushing hard for a move based on his social media activity.
But the Gunners did not get a deal done in the summer, making it two windows in a row that a move did not come to fruition and by Arteta’s own admission it’s pretty clear why.
The Spaniard made it quite clear that he was looking for a goalscoring midfielder and whilst Bissouma is one of the best in his position in the Premier League, he’s only ever scored eight career goals, with his main focus on the defensive side of the game.
And with Xhaka not leaving to join AS Roma, one look at Arsenal’s central midfield options and it provides a strong case as to why the Brighton midfielder wasn’t a priority in the summer.
Another reason is Thomas Partey.
Since the end of last season, a number of Arsenal fans have made it clear that he would be the perfect midfield partner for the Ghana international.
However, other supporters do not share the same opinion.
Judging by the reaction on Twitter before the summer transfer window closed, there was a theory that the two are of a similar profile which would suggest that the Gunners have already signed their ‘own Bissouma’ when completing a £45million transfer for Partey in October 2020.
Yet the question remains; were Arteta and Edu right to not pursue Bissouma and bolster their midfield options further?
Partey can go some way to proving the Arsenal pair right and proving that particular mission has already been completed as he’s expected to start against Brighton and as the senior midfielder in Xhaka’s absence.
Injuries have denied Arsenal fans to see the former Atletico Madrid man at his very best in the year that he’s been at the club, but games against Tottenham last week and Manchester United last season are just a sample of what he can do when fully fit.
If Partey can prove he can do everything Bissouma can do and more – especially at the Amex – then it could go a long way to allowing Arteta and Edu to target a different profile of midfielder when the January transfer window opens.