Multiple Arsenal legends have given their take on who the Gunners should sign out of their two main midfield transfer targets, Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar.
Mikel Arteta is in the market for a central midfielder this summer, and the north London club have seemingly whittled down their search to two primary options, who both offer completely different skillsets.
Partey is a combative player, who can boss games from the middle of the park with his athleticism and smart passing from a deep position.
Atletico Madrid want no less than his £45 million release clause paid out in full if he is to be prized away from the Wanda Metropolitano, while the Ghana international is reportedly keen on a move to north London.
Aouar, meanwhile, is a tricky technician who introduced himself on the biggest stage in last season’s Champions League as Lyon reached the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition.
Recent reports in France claim the midfielder has ‘agreed’ to join Arsenal and an official bid has been launched for the 22-year-old.
If Arsenal had to choose just one of their midfield targets, though, several club heroes, including Michael Thomas, Liam Brady, Lee Dixon and Alan Smith, suggested Partey may be the better option to suit their needs. ‘It is the area of the team they have to sort out, Thomas told The Athletic.
‘Having someone to sit just in front of the defence and run the show. A Patrick Vieira or Emmanuel Petit, who can dominate and then move the ball forward towards those who can do the damage.
‘A midfield player like Fernandinho who can sense danger quickly, pass the ball and pass on information.’
Arsenal’s former midfield genius Liam Brady also agreed with 1989 league title hero Thomas in choosing Partey over Aouar. ‘Of the two touted around this summer, I would say Partey’s profile is a more important fit,’ Brady added.
‘Arsenal need to strengthen that defensive area in front of the back four. Xhaka has done very well under Arteta’s management and has knuckled down and is making fewer mistakes but if we are going to challenge for the top four a more imposing and reliable player is needed.
‘Further forward we can improvise with what we’ve got. Bukayo Saka could move inside, Alexandre Lacazette can drop deep and Willian has played in behind the striker before. Arteta’s formula is working for us so I would go for the more defensive player.’
Four-time league winner with Arsenal, Lee Dixon, acknowledged his former side’s need for creativity in midfield, but prioritised defence by also picking Partey. ‘This is such a difficult one,’ Dixon said.
‘I could quite easily go either way. Arsenal are short of creativity in midfield and the hardest thing in football is to create. If Aubameyang doesn’t do his stuff it is limited in terms of forward play.
Part of me wonders if we can just patch things up at the back and have someone to open up doors. ‘However… because of what I represent I can’t get ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ out my head. I will go defensive and go Partey. Arsenal have not fixed the back four. I do like Gabriel but he needs time.’
Former Arsenal striker Smith also admitted that Partey is the more ‘practical choice’ for the Gunners, despite Aouar’s ability to open up defences.
‘I covered Lyon in the Champions League and saw Aouar,’ Smith said. ‘Without Ozil, Arsenal do lack that kind of player, someone who runs from deep. They don’t really have a lock opener.
‘Oh God, I don’t know! On an average day, Arsenal might struggle to score goals but they do have enough players who can pop up, so maybe Partey is the more practical choice to really give them that solidity as a screening player.
‘Arsenal are on the way to becoming more solid but there is a way to go still. If he came over and did a good job that would go down a treat.’