Exclusive: why Arsenal made the right decision in favoring Thomas Party over Hussem Auar / 101, talks to French football expert Jeremy Smith

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Mikel Arteta, manager of Arsenal, talks to Thomas Partey of Arsenal before his debut during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on October 17, 2020 in Manchester, England. Sports stadiums in the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic as state social distancing laws prohibit fans from entering facilities, resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Michael Regan / Getty Images)

Arsenal's 1-0 home defeat to Leicester was a disappointment for the Gunners' fans. Ball dominance and possession were lacking in creativity for most of the game. Chances came and went, but the quality of service was skewed towards the left flank and overhang of Kieran Tierney.

The right lacked dynamism. First Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and then Nicholas Pepe. Both, coupled with Hector Bellerin, could do little to sway Fox's solid defense.

After the match, many Arsenal fans on social media are wondering why the club decided to sign Thomas Partey instead of Husem Auar. Arsenal's creative potential is, above all, terrible. The wings are impregnated and the Cannoneers are predictable, making it easier to defend against them.

Therefore, it is pertinent to ask the question, was it necessary to spend money on Partey on Aouar? However, the answer is clearly in favor of Ghana for many reasons.

Initial structure

When Arteta arrived at the club, they were in a mess on the defensive. The four defenders were regularly out of line, and cheap goals were conceded in major matches. Even in several games under the initial protection of Arteta, four mistakes were made. Tammy Abraham's goal against the Emirates, which took Arsenal points away against Chelsea, is a perfect example.

To compensate for this, Arteta switched to 3 side-backs on either side. In the FA Cup against Manchester City and Chelsea, the system worked flawlessly. The combination of Tierney, David Louis and one of Rob Holding or Shkodran Mustafi made the most of the typically vulnerable center halves. While Tierney was able to hit the left flank with the ball behind Aubameyang.

The original 3-4-3 system was effectively used, thanks to which Arteta won the 2020 FA Cup.

The original 3-4-3 system was effectively used, thanks to which Arteta won the 2020 FA Cup.

Hector Bellerin and Ainslie Maitland-Niles were defensive without the ball, but supported attack in attack. Granit Jaka and Dani Ceballos played defensively and, lacking a third central midfielder in a free attacking role, scattered passes over large areas. It worked, but it was passive and relied on a few points made throughout the game.

In games with Manchester City and Liverpool, the big chances, which were few, were not realized. As a result, Arsenal lost those games, although they remained competitive and “in play” throughout the match.

The signing of the midfield was necessary for the change to take place. Arsenal needed to add creativity to the midfield without compromising defensive stability.


On the day of the deadline, Arsenal signed Thomas Parti of Atletico Madrid. This happened after it was reported that the prolonged persecution of Lyons by Husem Auar did not materialize, and the Frenchman remained in his homeland.

For Arsenal to become more offensive, moving from a defensive 3-4-3 to a 4-back lineup is the way forward. Arteta has tried it a couple of times this season. Signing Auar could have allowed him to switch to the formation shown below.

Arteta could have put Auar at number 10 behind Aubameyang, flanked by Bukayo Saki and Nicolas Pepe.

Arteta could have put Auar at number 10 behind Aubameyang, flanked by Bukayo Saki and Nicolas Pepe.

Auar's creativity could feed the striker and the wider team with sharp passes and possibly increase the creation of chances. However, there are some problems with this choice.


First, two of Xhaka, Ceballos or Mohammed Elneny would become partners as a double twist. The defensive role of midfield towards Arsenal has reigned supreme over the past decade, and many others. Players are caught, inconsistent and slow. Arsenal played Mesut Ozil at number 10 with various combinations of sixes and eights in the corner behind.

While the results created many chances, the defensive vulnerability of the deeper midfielders exposed the four-backs and led to mistakes. The addition of Aouar leads to an improved creative side, but the same defensive midfield mistakes would remain present.

Secondly, it is Auar himself. 101 spoke with French soccer expert Jeremy Smith. Regarding Auar's position, Smith believes that role number 10 is not where he would best work. "For me, he is best suited for the 8, controlling everything in midfield, finding places in space and using his fast legs to get everything moving."

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"But in terms of creativity, I don't consider him number 10, and while his passing statistics are good, I think he's more of a penultimate pass player."

One of the biggest problems with Ozil was that he went missing in games in which Arsenal as a whole were underperforming. When asked if Awar is one who succeeds while others hesitate, Smith was not reassuring.

“All this again leads to the fact that although everything around him is going well, he is at his best and as comfortable as possible. But when others are too weak, I don't think he does enough - at least not yet - to raise his game and raise the game of those around him, as the best players should, ”said Smith.

“The fact that he can improve his game for really big UCL matches is arguably a double-edged sword — shows that he has ability, but makes you wonder why he doesn't do it week after week. In my opinion, at this point, he has not shown enough resilience or personality to really deserve this big step. "


Jeremy Smith emphasizes aspects of Auar's play that are opposite to Thomas Partey. The Ghanaian always plays for Atletico Madrid. The absolutely firm stance that Athleti took towards Party in the summer is proof enough. Simeone did not want to lose the Party at all.

Partey is providing Arsenal with the quality, world-class deep midfielder that it desperately needs. When "Arteta" starts to move into the four defenders, Partey gives the defenders and full-backs the opportunity to move forward comfortably. This was evident in how high both defenders were able to get on the field against Leicester City.

Heatmaps of Tierney (left), Party (center) and Bellerina (right) against Leicester City. (Source: Wyscout)

Heatmaps of Tierney (left), Party (center) and Bellerina (right) against Leicester City. (Source: Wyscout)

Thomas Partey gives the Gunners the opportunity to progress and become better than in the last decade. However, he cannot do it alone, and the central creative spark must come from somewhere. In a perfect world, Arsenal could have signed both Party and Auar. This may still happen in January, however until then there are many points to compete for.

There are many options, but they do not guarantee. The following options are available for Arteta: Dani Ceballos, Bukayo Saka, Willian, Joe Willock and Emile Smith-Rowe. The assumption that Alexandre Lacazette could play in the hole is incorrect given the lack of creativity that the Frenchman provided.

Saka has been one of the Gunners' most creative players since his breakout. Usually a big player, but the senior England player has room to play inside. The tricky part, then, is who plays on the left if Nicolas Pepe's £ 72million plays right? Aubameyang's lack of goals suggests that a move towards the middle is necessary. Therefore, Willian remains the only option until the return of Gabriel Martinelli.

There is intrigue in how Emile Smith-Rowe can integrate into the squad this season. If all goes well, Saka could slip back, with Smith Rowe taking center stage as an attacking midfielder. But with a little bit of top-level experience, this is probably wishful thinking.


The purchase of Thomas Party means the club's ability to move forward. Improving deep midfield positions was essential, but Arsenal's lack of creativity needs to be addressed.

Auar hasn't arrived yet, at least not yet, and Arteta must find a way to increase the productivity of the occasional side creation. With Manchester United next in line, it would not be surprising for Arteta to return to the 3-4-3 formation, which was successful in matches with the top six. However, with Arsenal as protagonists in these games, perhaps the Spaniard should avoid defense and take another chance.

Thursday's match against Dundalk allows some experimentation. I hope Arteta is brave, but if he doesn't, the pressure from the fans is bound to grow.

See also: Exclusive: "He has a talent for becoming a true top-class player." Former Huddersfield soccer head praises Arsenal's Smith Row

Arsenal hit: Lyon announces the tenure of Husem Auar


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