Kevin Campbell is hoping to see Thomas Partey in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI against Manchester City and says a victory for Arsenal this weekend will see the club taken ‘seriously’ in the race for the Premier League title.
Arsenal got the season off to the perfect start as they beat Liverpool to get their hands on the Community Shield but Jurgen Klopp’s champions soon got revenge in the league with a 3-1 victory at Anfield.
It remains the Gunners’ sole defeat in top flight this term and the north London club will fancy their chances versus an out-of-form Manchester City side at the Etihad on Saturday.
Arteta, Pep Guardiola’s right-hand man for three-and-a-half years at City before taking charge of Arsenal, faces several selection headaches leading into the clash and must decide whether to throw Partey straight in at the deep end for his debut.
Ex-Arsenal striker Campbell predicts the Spaniard will opt for a back-three – which worked so well against City in the FA Cup semi-final last season – with Partey potentially acting as the anchor in midfield.
‘What do Arsenal need to do? Obviously we’re hoping Thomas Partey starts in the midfield. That’ll be protection for those at the back, especially the centre-backs,’ he told the Highbury Squad YouTube channel.
‘I think Arteta might go with three at the back and play with wing-backs. It’s proved to be fruitful in the past, especially in the semi-final of the FA Cup last season.
‘Obviously he’s got more legs now with the likes of Thomas Partey in the midfield. Partey is multi-faceted and he can do a lot more than our midfielders.
‘Not only is his passing range very good but he can also drive with the ball, he can pick the ball up and go and that gives us so many more opportunities and angles to win the game.
‘First off, we have to defend properly and that’s key.
‘[Bernd] Leno has to marshal that back-three or back-five, whatever you want to call it, we’ve got to pick people up and mark correctly, the wing-backs have to play smart and defend when they’re in a good position and be solid but offer themselves as attackers when they can.
‘Our distribution from the back, we know we can spring [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang over the top given the opportunity because Man City’s full-backs play so high.
‘But I think we can play an even better ball from Thomas Partey when he plays in there, over the top for Aubameyang.’
Campbell says Aubameyang failing to score in his last three games can partly be put down to a lack of service from the midfield and believes dominating in this area will be ‘key’ for Arsenal.
‘I can see Arsenal either playing a two and one in midfield because we’re away from home which could be [Granit] Xhaka and Partey with [Dani] Ceballos in front or you could go Ceballos and Partey with Willian in front,’ he added.
‘I think we’ve got to try and dominate the midfield and, if we don’t dominate, we have to try and win the ball back and spring from there and really make Man City pay on the counter-attack. That is key.
‘When we break we have to go and hurt them. We have the speed and the ability now to hurt them, Ceballos and Partey’s passes, Xhaka being solid and keeping the ball ticking over and giving some service to the front boys.
‘There’s been a lot of talk of Aubameyang not scoring since he signed a new contract but I don’t think we’ve created anything for him to go for, to be honest, so we have to be better attacking-wise and we have to defend as a team.’
‘I think they’ve come down a little peg and I just think this Arsenal team can go to the Etihad and get something and if we can get something – a win, a win is the key – then people are going to take Arsenal seriously and that’s where we want to be.
‘We want Arsenal to be serious, we want Thomas Partey to get his first win. We want him to start, get his first win and let’s get the fanbase buzzing.
‘Arsenal can win but they have to do the right things and perform well as a team.’