Arsenal have confirmed that midfielder Thomas Partey is unavailable for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Leeds after failing to recover from the thigh injury he suffered in the defeat to Aston Villa prior to the international break.
Partey managed only the first 45 minutes against Villa, with Arsenal going on to lose 3-0 and the killer blows coming in quick succession in the second half without him on the pitch.
Having the Ghanaian ruled out of the Leeds clash is therefore a significant blow to the Gunners, who will also be missing Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian tested positive for coronavirus while on international duty and is isolating as per the protocols before he can return to training.
Manager Mikel Arteta has brought Elneny back in from the cold this season after he spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Besiktas. The Gunners boss opted to pair Partey with Elneny for the first time in the Europa League against Rapid Vienna, before later turning to that partnership again in response to back-to-back Premier League defeats to Manchester City and Leicester.
The first league match that Partey and Elneny started together saw Arsenal beat Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in 14 years.
Together, they offered more structure and discipline to midfield, prompting Arteta to use the system again for the Villa game, which obviously ended in disaster when Partey was forced off.
With both unavailable for Sunday, Arteta must reconsider his central midfield options. Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos are available to him and would be the most likely choices, although the boss was impressed by Joe Willock’s recent Europa League performance and could open that door.
“He is developing the right way, he is a player that I really like, he has some very special qualities. He deserves every minute he's been playing and he's showing it with performances, with goals and with his attitude,” Arteta said of Willock after beating Molde in Arsenal’s last European game.