Football Features

Squawka Scout: How Thomas Partey has become one of Europe’s most complete midfielders

By Squawka News

Thomas Partey: Squawka Scout

Published: 18:52, 13 June 2020

Thomas Partey has emerged as one of Europe’s most complete midfielders this season. And with a reported release clause of £42m, the likes of Arsenal and Man Utd have both been linked with his signature. As part of a #WednesdayWisdom series, we’ve looked at why the Ghanain will be in high demand when the transfer window re-opens.

Thomas has started 20+ LaLiga games in three consecutive seasons but found it difficult to convince Diego Simeone of his talents. The now-retired Gabi was a mainstay until 2016/17 and then replaced by Man City‘s Rodri in 2018/19, meaning Thomas had serious competition while trying to establish himself as Atleti’s main midfield general. 2019/20, then, is perhaps the season even Simeone learned there ain’t no party like a Partey party, because a Partey party really does not stop.

First and foremost, El Cholo demands an incredible defensive effort from his players; Thomas leads by example. By looking at his defensive action map, we see that Thomas’s defensive output is not only high volume, but his coverage is vast. From flank to flank, from box to box, Thomas has the athleticism to actually cover every blade of grass. The Ghanaian is also an excellent ball-winner — for a central midfielder that makes 2.49 successful tackles per 90 minutes, he is dribbled past just once on average per 90 — and his ball recovery numbers are top tier.

View Thomas Partey’s full statistical visualisation gallery on Squawka’s official Instagram page below.

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His 6ft1 frame also means Thomas competes well in the air. Primarily tasked with contesting aerial duels just ahead of Atleti’s deep defensive line, Thomas has proven adept at dealing with any opposition sieges when called upon. Partey is the only LaLiga midfielder to play 500+ minutes this season with 80+% take-ons success, 80+% pass accuracy, 65+% aerial duels won and 60+% total duels won.

Thomas has been the hub of every Atlético Madrid passing move. Heavily involved in the build-up, he is charged with helping bring his side further up the pitch and consistently moves the ball forward.

Looking at his passing flow map, we can see clearly that Thomas is forward-thinking — an observation further explained by his passing sonar. This is indicative of a deep-lying midfielder who consistently receives the first pass from his centre-backs.

If forward-thinking distribution, almost-limitless stamina and a combative physical presence were not quite enough, then how about a near-perfect ball-carrying ability? In Europe’s top five leagues this season, Thiago Alcantara is the only player out of the 247 that have attempted 50+ take-ons with a higher success rate than Thomas.

And although he is not as frequent a dribbler as the Bayern magician, his 2.2 completed per 90 minutes is comparable to players synonymous with carrying the ball – Jack Grealish, for example – while his ability to evade tackles in the defensive third is vital to Atleti escaping advanced opposition player and therefore building their own attacks.

For Atleti, Thomas plays alongside Saúl Ñíguez – another incredibly gifted, complete midfielder — in what is an all-action midfield pairing. The reason why a team like Arsenal may be tempted to enquire about the midfielder’s services is due to the fact that Thomas combines the strengths of Mikel Arteta’s preferred double-pivot options into one elite athlete.

Able to dictate the tempo like Granit Xhaka, carry the ball like Dani Ceballos and tackle like Lucas Torreira, Arsenal would then be able to partner Thomas with the ideal player depending on the opponent.

Whether it is Arsenal or another club, expect plenty of enquiries about Thomas Partey’s availability this summer. If the £42m release clause does not change, expect it to be activated.


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