Arsenal won their opening game of the 2020/21 Europa League campaign – a 1-2 triumph over Rapid in Vienna – on Thursday evening. After a goalless first half, Taxiarchis Fountas opened the scoring for the home side in the 51st minute, but goals from David Luiz in the 70th and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang four minutes later made sure the Gunners brought all three points back to north London. Midfielder Thomas Partey, signed from Atletico Madrid on the Deadline Day of the international transfer window, played the full 90 minutes and put in a great performance.
Speaking after the game, manager Mikel Arteta explained how the team moved forward in greater numbers trying to score, with certain players making runs into certain spaces, which often left Thomas to hold the middle of the park in his team’s name alone. The responsibility and difficulty of such a task can hardly be overstated, especially for a newcomer.
Arteta realized the Ghana international would be watched closely from the first minute of the first game by many eyes – he expected it due to the player’s high profile and the price Arsenal paid to obtain his services. However, the boss stressed the importance of the structure of the team, as opposed to individual performances. He confirmed that Partey is a part of that structure now, and expressed strong hope that it would remain the case for a ling time with his role getting gradually bigger.
In his first full game for Arsenal, Thomas had a passing success rate of 90.2% (92 passes in total, of which one key pass and four long balls), won four aerial duels, made five tackles, one interception, one clearance, took one shot and completed one dribble. With the Gunners having the ball for 68% percent of the time, those numbers are very good for a defensive midfielder.