Arsenal have been dealt a hammer blow with the loss of Thomas Partey for the visit of Leeds United, according to Noel Whelan.
The former Whites striker and lifelong fan at Elland Road, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the Gunners would sorely miss the quality and energy of the 27-year-old in the middle of the park on Sunday.
As confirmed by Arsenal, Partey picked up a hamstring strain in the defeat to Aston Villa and has joined Kieran Tierney on the sidelines in north London.
The midfielder, who cost the Gunners £45million from Atletico Madrid last summer, has made 13 appearances under Mikel Arteta and started the club’s last five Premier League games.
Whelan insisted the Ghana international would be a notable absence against Leeds and admitted he was disappointed to miss out on the chance to see a midfield battle with the Whites’ Kalvin Phillips.
Reacting to the news of Partey’s absence, Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “Huge, massive, bigger than Tierney that. It’s going to be the same at Leeds without Kalvin, he’s that engine, that person he’s that key to stability in midfield.
“If both teams are going to be without them, it’s going to be very intriguing because I think they’re less dangerous without these players. We’re less effective, I think they’re less effective – you can’t miss a big part of the cog and feel that you’re going to be strengthened.
“There’s nowhere near you’re going to be strengthened, either side, if they’re missing Parety and Kalvin Phillips – I mean, that’d just be a great battle to watch in itself to see who comes out on top.
“You’re talking about Vardy missing for Leicester, we made that count so Partey missing is a huge part of the Arsenal team, which is why they spent that much money trying to get him because they knew how important it would be to the side.”
Partey was replaced by Willian for the final 15 minutes against Aston Villa, while Arteta could also call upon the likes of Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny or Martin Odegaard in midfield.