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Where Partey would rank in PL defensive midfielders if he joined Arsenal

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Atlético Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey has been linked with Arsenal multiple times over the past few months.

The Ghanaian international is one of Europe’s most highly sought-after defensive midfielders and is known to have a £42 million release clause.

Arsenal have been in hot pursuit and so far have registered the strongest level of interest in the No. 6.

If he were to join the Gunners this summer, where would he measure up against the league’s best defensive midfielders?

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10 – Philip Billing – AFC Bournemouth

Danish midfielder Philip Billing has been one of the bottom-half’s most consistent defensive midfielders over the past three seasons. Promoted initially with Huddersfield Town, Billing provided stability and ball-progression at the base of David Wagner’s midfield.

A switch to the south coast followed Huddersfield’s relegation where he has maintained his role as a buffer between opposition attacks and the Cherries’ back four. He is one of the club’s best in the air and an asset to Eddie Howe’s side.

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9 – Fred – Manchester United

Largely underrated this season, Manchester United’s Brazilian midfielder Fred has proven to be a safe pair of hands, sitting behind United’s attack. Fred has been energetic, pressuring opponents, winning tackles and starting moves from the No. 6 position.

His improved form has somewhat changed the record as until this season, the 27-year-old had been considered something of a dud at Old Trafford.

8 – Rúben Neves – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Portuguese playmaker Rúben Neves is a different type of defensive midfielder, sitting back and picking out teammates with his splendid vision and fantastic range of passing.

The 23-year-old enjoyed a promising first season in the Premier League and has consolidated his good performances this year. His defensive work-rate could improve, but he offers Wolves something that only a few Premier League sides can boast; a goal-threat from distance, and a player who can switch the point of attack in an instant.

Ruben Neves in action Wolverhampton Wanderers

7 – Declan Rice – West Ham United

West Ham United’s young, sought-after England international is already one of the league’s most efficient defensive midfielders. At 21 years-old, Rice has amassed a number of seasons worth of experience, shielding a defence which often comes under siege.

No player has made more pressures in the defensive third than Rice this season, according to FBRef.com, illustrating the youngster’s lung-busting work ethic. His all-round game still needs polishing but his overall ability indicates good things for years to come.

6 – Oliver Norwood – Sheffield United

An unsung hero outside of the Steel City, Oliver Norwood is the man who keeps Sheffield United ticking over. Unperturbed by his centre-backs making overlapping runs past his deep, holding position, Norwood is chief dictator of play in Chris Wilder’s Blades side.

Possessing tremendous long-passing ability, Norwood is key to switching play to either flank, with long diagonals causing problems for opposition teams. He is also very secure in possession, tidily distributing to players around him under pressure.

Arsenal during the break

5 – N’Golo Kanté – Chelsea

Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté takes on a much more box-to-box role nowadays in comparison to his Leicester City days but the Frenchman’s skillset still makes him one of the league’s best.

In protecting a back-four, there are few better than the modest World Cup winner. His outstanding work-rate sets him apart and makes him perfect for covering lateral spaces in front of the defence.

The presence of Jorginho – a different style of defensive midfielder – has shifted Kanté into a more dynamic, metronomic role over the past two seasons at Stamford Bridge, however he has consistently performed well in his defensive duties.

4 – Fabinho – Liverpool

In a side famed for its defending from the front, Brazilian Fabinho is not over-exerted when it comes to his defensive work. Nevertheless, his output is outstanding, getting through multiple tackles, interceptions and pressures per game in the red of Liverpool.

He anchors Jürgen Klopp’s ultra-attacking side, providing stability and acting as a third centre-back to allow Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to maraud freely up the pitch. Versatile, strong and tactically astute, Fabinho is a first-class defensive midfielder.

3 – Jorginho – Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri’s man dictates Chelsea’s tempo from his reserved role in front of the defence. Despite the Italian departing Stamford Bridge last season, and his soft spot for Jorginho gone with him, Frank Lampard has stuck with the Brazilian-born midfielder in the middle.

At progressing the ball into the final third, there are few better in the entirety of the Premier League. Jorginho’s default setting is to receive, scan and distribute a forward pass. His ability to pick the forward runs of his attackers, press opponents and intercept attacking moves sets him apart as one of the league leaders in his position.

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2 – Rodri – Manchester City

Much like Jorginho and Rúben Neves, Rodri is a European defensive midfielder, who glides around the pitch, spraying passes and shutting down opposition moves. For secure ball-progression, there are few better in world football than 23-year-old Rodri; he rarely puts a foot wrong from his quarterback-like position in Pep Guardiola’s team.

Also possessing a fabulous range of passing, Rodri affords his more nimble and creative teammates to lay opportunities on for the likes of Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus, while he remains anchored to the centre of the field, minding the shop.

1 – Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City

Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

The glue that holds Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City side together is Nigerian international Wilfred Ndidi. His defensive output is immense, winning more tackles, applying more pressure and intercepting more passes than any other player in the Premier League combined.

Ndidi’s consistency over the past two seasons has been mightily impressive, and his absence is certainly felt when he is not playing for the Foxes. While his contribution to build-up play is lacking, he more than makes up for it by putting himself in the firing line for what seems like almost every opposition attack.

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And Partey?

Thomas Partey would likely rank somewhere in the top five of the Premier League’s best defensive midfielders, which is encouraging considering none of Arsenal’s are in the top ten.

Partey has a unique press-resistant quality to his game, being able to beat high-pressing sides with a strong dribble out of trouble before progressing the play into the final third.

His defensive output would need improvements, but what he offers on the whole on a regular basis would more than likely be an improvement on the likes of Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira and their inconsistency.




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