Ever since Thomas Partey signed from Atletico Madrid in the summer transfer window, the hope has been that the Ghana international could be the one to transform Arsenal’s midfield.
And since his arrival, there have been games where he’s done exactly that, not least in a superb 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford – a game that led Roy Keane to hail Partey as the Gunners’ potential Patrick Vieira successor.
But injuries have disrupted his progress, and whilst his return to first-team training recently is a welcome boost, there’s a real question about who should be the man to partner him in central midfield.
And that is exactly why Mikel Arteta’s side might be wise to bring in Stade Rennes midfielder Steven Nzonzi.
Reports in recent days have suggested that the 6 foot 5 Frenchman has remained of interest to the Gunners, and whilst at 32, fans might question whether he’s past his best, his performances this season in Ligue 1 suggest he’s got plenty to offer.
And perhaps more than that, his game could be the perfect compliment to the £45m-rated Partey.
At Atletico Madrid, the Ghanaian was used more as a holding midfielder, someone to break up the play and pass it off to those in front of him.
That naturally restricted the kind of talent he actually has going forward, with Owen Hargreaves speaking earlier this season about how he’s got so much more to his game than being the classic anchor man.
He said: “This guy has everything you need from a modern midfielder. He can do everything. His whole repertoire, he just has everything. He can play every pass. Play it long, play it short, put it on a plate.
“We’ve seen the defensive side which is what he’s going to bring, the long range passing, and the shooting from distance to get goals. He’s the perfect modern midfield player.”
The key for Arteta is to actually unleashing the more box-to-box dynamism that he possesses, rather than weighing him down with the responsibility of protecting Arsenal’s defence.
Nzonzi’s arrival can allow him to do that. In Ligue 1 this season, the Frenchman has averaged an impressive 4.6 duels won per game, whilst he only gets dribbled past 0.6 times per match.
That extra solidity would open up Partey’s game even more, and become much more of a game-changer for this Arsenal side. Letting the Ghanaian work his “magic” like Hargreaves says when going forward would add an extra dimension to Arteta’s men.
It’s why signing Nzonzi, even now at 32, could be a real coup for the Gunners.