Arsenal will be facing Villarreal in one of their most important games of the season. There are several factors that will influence the outcome of the Europa League semi-final and let us take a deeper look into an interesting midfield duel. The battle between Thomas Partey and Dani Parejo has the potential to dictate who makes it to the final.
Both players have been new additions to their respective clubs. The Ghanaian was at Atletico Madrid before moving to the Emirates while the Spaniard was the star and captain of Valencia before joining rivals Villarreal.
The reason this battle will be decisive is because of the influence they hold over their respective teams. Despite only arriving at the beginning of the season, both of them have become the fulcrum. For the Gunners, the team looks significantly weaker without Partey and Parejo is the conductor of the Yellow Submarines, the one who keeps them ticking.
Mikel Arteta will have his man play a little deeper to lessen the influence of the Spanish midfielder and this is where Partey comes into his own as the 27-year-old is capable of protecting the midfield all on his own. Parejo on the other hand, will be instructed by Unai Emery to showcase his incredible passing range. He is not as athletic as his counterpart but has the technical mastery to set the tempo for the Spanish side.
The reason Parejo can play further forward is the protection that is provided, usually by Etienne Capoue or Manu Trigueros. Conversely, with the Ghana international playing in a more defensive role, it can lessen his impact. The driving runs through the midfield will have to be curbed. If the Gunners leave gaps between the midfield and defence, then we can be assured that Parejo will exploit them.
Arsenal would also need Dani Ceballos to step up and take on some of the burden from Partey. Doing this would allow the former Atletico man to showcase his full range of skills. Keeping Parejo quiet is key for the Gunners to gain an advantage in the first leg. It will not be easy, but they have an elite talent who can pull it off.
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