It isn’t Thomas Partey’s fault that he’s increasingly prone to injury setbacks, but as the World Cup looms, is it time for Ghana to consider cutting him loose?
I’m not talking about the Black Stars dropping Partey altogether, or even dropping him from the squad to head to Qatar—fitness permitting—but it’s surely time to consider that he ought not be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
The midfielder was named in Otto Addo’s starting XI to face Brazil in Le Havre on Friday evening, taking his place in the heart of the park for a vital pre-tournament friendly at the Stade Oceane.
However, only minutes before kickoff, the Black Stars had to make a late reshuffle as Partey reportedly felt discomfort in his knee.
It prompted Iddrisu Baba being promoted to the first team, and while Partey’s injury isn’t serious—he will remain with the West African giants for the remainder of the international break—it was yet another pertinent reminder of his fragility.Backpagepix.
His last-minute omission from the team surely played a part in Ghana’s disastrous first-half, when they fell to a first half lead, with the starting XI looking disjointed and disorganised without their midfield general.
Partey missing out was, of course, a big loss for the Black Stars, but it was compounded by the fact that it threw Addo’s plans into disarray.
A critically important opportunity to deliver a strong performance before the World Cup was missed, and Ghana have now gone three matches without a win as the tournament looms.
Partey is a fine player, but his increasing unavailability represents an increasing problem for Ghana, as it has been for Arsenal in recent years.
He made just 23 starts for the Gunners last term amidst injury problems, has already missed several weeks of the season this term due to fitness concerns, and he’s now featured for just two of the seven matches the Black Stars have played since the Africa Cup of Nations.
His inconsistent fitness translates to instability in Ghana’s midfield, and it threatens to undo the Black Stars as they head to Qatar.
Arsenal were clearly concerned heading into the tournament; they reportedly had their medics inform the Ghana medical staff of how to manage Partey’s health and navigate any fitness issues that may emerge during the course of the international break.
They’re obviously nervous, and with good reason…as we were all reminded of again on Friday evening.
Arsenal will obviously hope that Ghana don’t risk Partey in Tuesday’s friendly against Nicaragua, and while Addo will surely be tempted to play him, it would be wise to use the opportunity to give another opportunity to the midfield of Baba, Mohammed Kudus and Andre Ayew.
The likes of Elisha Owusu and Daniel-Kofi Kyereh must also be given further opportunities to grow into the midfield, while Addo—who is understood not to be open to including new players in the squad—may regret not promoting Salis Abdul Samed to the squad.
Fitness permitting, Partey should travel to Qatar, and could yet play a key role for the Black Stars at the World Cup, but should the Arsenal man still be considered one of the first names on the teamsheet for the national side?