Mikel Arteta admits Thomas Partey has been left “devastated” by his latest injury setback and said a lack of pre-season and the demands of the Premier League could be to blame.
Partey suffered a hamstring injury during last weekend’s defeat at Aston Villa which has definitely ruled him out of Sunday’s visit of Leeds and will more than likely keep him sidelined for at least two weeks.
The Ghana international missed just six games due to injury in over five years in the first-team at Atletico Madrid but the Leeds fixture will be the ninth Premier League match he has sat out through injury since joining the Gunners in October.
It was in the 3-0 home loss to Villa in November where Partey injured his thigh, returning for the north London derby against Tottenham only to limp off after 47 minutes.
His latest setback comes having completed 90 minutes just once in 2021 and Arteta conceded not having the 27-year-old available is a big loss.
“He felt something during the game and we didn’t think it was too bad but after the scan looked a little bit worse,” Arteta said of Partey’s injury – confirmed by the club as a hamstring issue.
“He was devastated, we were all devastated because we know the importance of Thomas and we haven’t had him since we signed him, we haven’t had him in three games consecutively.
“It is a big blow for us but he is adapting to the league, he has been very unlucky as well and he is very frustrated because he is a very competitive guy who wants to feel important and be important for the team and at the moment the injuries are restricting a lot of game time for him.”
Asked why he felt Partey was struggling more with injuries since his arrival at the Emirates Stadium, Arteta felt several factors are at work: “He came here from a different league and physically it’s much more demanding than the Spanish league.
“He got injured, he wanted to get back, he got back and then he got injured again, so his rhythm has been in and out. He hasn’t had a pre-season and he hasn’t had the type of preparation that is needed for such a change.
“Then it’s probably anxiety from being so willing to do well and to feel important because he’s a big signing. All those things add up and he broke down again, so we have to be patient now and he needs to recover properly because he’s going to be key for us to have him available at the end of the season.”
While Partey is likely to miss the first leg of Arsenal’s round-of-32 clash with Benfica next Thursday, Arteta will be keen to have him available for the return match a week later.
The first game will be the away leg but will be played in Rome due to current coronavirus restrictions in both Portugal and the UK.
#UEL last-32 venues confirmed ✅
🇮🇹 𝗙𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗹𝗲𝗴: Stadio Olimpico🇬🇷 𝗦𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗹𝗲𝗴: Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) February 12, 2021
It was also confirmed on Friday morning that the ‘home’ leg will take place in Athens for the same reasons – with the away goals rule still in effect despite the change of venues.
“UEFA has confirmed that our Europa League last-32 home leg against Benfica will be played at Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis in Athens,” a statement on Arsenal’s official website read.
“The match – at the home of Olympiacos – has been moved from Emirates Stadium due to Covid restrictions. The match will be staged on February 25, kick-off 5.55pm (GMT).
“The first leg is being played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on February 18, kick off 8pm (GMT). UEFA has stated that in the event of a draw over two legs, the usual away goals rule will apply.”