Thomas Partey, the Ghanaian international from the reserve team of Atletico Madrid, was promoted to the first team under Diego Simeone in 2015. At first, he didn’t have many opportunities to play much within the squad in La Liga, but since captain Gabi left Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2018 and when Rodri went to Manchester City early this season, Thomas has since become an important component of Atletico’s composition and has attracted the attention of many European clubs.
Through this tactical analysis, we will try to review what the player has provided tactically and statistically to his team this season.
Thomas has great defensive strengths with the 4-4-2 basic formation of Atletico Madrid within the style of play of Diego Simeone, which depends on a tight defence along with playing quick counter-attacks to hit the opponent’s defence.
Party is one of two central midfielders who are positioned near the centre-backs and always moves in the pressure system when the team loses the ball, by making a mid-block.
The Ghanaian is an excellent ball-winner as a central midfielder and has made 2.49 successful tackles per 90 minutes. Besides that, Thomas Partey also has a very high ball interception ratio with 5.03 per game. This is due to his physical capabilities as he is 6’1″ in height, as well as his excellent positioning in Atletico Madrid’s defensive shape on the pitch.
In the next examples, we will see an analysis of his positioning during the defensive phase of play in Diego Simeone’s system.
Here we can see a stage of Atletico Madrid’s style of defence in a zonal-marking with all the elements of the team in the first third of the pitch: four defenders, two players in the pivot, including Partey beside the flanks.
Partey traces the path of the ball when it goes over the edges to move in a horizontal manner, on the same line with Koke who is with him on the same line, taking into consideration the arrivals from behind Liverpool’s Wijnaldum in this shot.
He’s dropping off when his team loses the ball and makes a support choice to intercept the opposition passes in the danger zone near or inside the Atletico Madrid penalty area.
Here we see that he went to besiege Wijnaldum, who went to penetrate the penalty area of the Spanish team from Kieran Trippier’s side, and thanks to his proper positioning he managed to intercept the Dutch player’s pass.
Through this example, we see one of Thomas’s most important strengths, which is supporting the two full-backs in the process of the opposition’s build-up, playing in the last third of the pitch.
Here we can see from the top camera how Thomas moved vertically in the process of pressing Real Madrid into the build-up phase of play, keeping in mind that Casemiro was not left alone to receive in “zone 14”.
We can also see the heatmap of Thomas Partey with Atletico Madrid this season to discover his importance in his team’s defensive tactics.
His coverage is very big. From flank to flank, and from his team’s box to the opponent box, we can say that it literally covers every inch of the field, with strength and focus on the ball to recover it.
Thomas Partey can cover the passing lanes in a way to recover the ball from the opponent with tackles, as he has a ratio of up to 2.50 per game. He can additionally recover balls by up to 8.17 per game this season, as one of the best central midfielders in Europe behind Carlos Casemiro with Real Madrid and Wilfried Ndidi in Leicester City.
Here we can see Thomas in the final third of the pitch to intercept the ball and the pass lanes as well as make tackles to disable the build-up process from Luka Modrić, and recover the ball for his team, thus, disrupting the Real attacks from the beginning.
He not only cuts the ball on the ground but is also adept at winning air duels, by up to 3.03 per game. 1 v 1 defending and tackling are some of Thomas’ best attributes and this indicates why Simeone relied mainly on him, but he also possesses offensive capabilities.
Although he is a central midfielder who is more present in the centre circle of the field, he provides a lot of offensive support with a way to pass and distinctively move the ball from back to front.
One of Thomas’ advantages is the simple passing of the ball during the build-up process of the attack, and this is due to the good positioning, especially on the side of one of the two centre-backs, where he can do that kind of pass for more than 90% this season.
We can see that in the next examples that will show his intelligent thinking with the ball.
We can see an example of this in these two pictures during the process of build-up from the defensive line, Thomas Partey managed to exchange the ball with Felipe the first time and then return it to him, and he later can pass the ball towards Mario Hermoso, the other centre-back, and thus the Atlético Madrid team can relieve the pressure created by the Athletic Bilbao team.
But note how he moves into the free pocket of space where he knows he can receive the ball safely and then continue the build-up phase. That’s a great sign of positional awareness and intelligent movement across the pitch.
Additionally, Thomas can make the smart passes forward by more than 52% during his team’s encounters. One of the biggest improvements has been Thomas’ ability to find a good chance to do short-range vertical passes, even in the build-up and possession phase he’s getting better at breaking lines and providing balls in the space behind opposition defensive line by 54% with through passes.
Here we can see Thomas when Atletico possesses the ball, approaching the opponent’s penalty area and then passing a short vertical pass towards Alvaro Morata who can score.
Partey has a massive number of chances created as a defensive midfielder in the final third in the pitch of up to 6.3 per game, with a ball-carrying ability. He is considered the second-best player in this situation and moving it from his team’s area to the risky areas of the opponent.
He also comes in second place across the five major leagues in Europe behind Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara who at 247 has attempted 50 more than Partey.
Partey has a distinct ability of dribbling the ball during Atlético Madrid matches that enables him to help his team in the stages of transitioning from defensive to offensive in up to 2.2 per game.
Here we can see that feature in Thomas’s performance as he managed to carry the ball in the middle of Juventus’s squad and turn his team from defence to attack. Thomas often uses his physical abilities as his long feet intercept the ball when building up an opponent to play in from behind, whenever Atletico Madrid decides to apply high pressure.
Here we can see the role of Partey in the pattern of play by Atletico Madrid when applying pressure, where he goes directly to the Valencia player in that shot and succeeds in cutting the ball.
Then we see him, as shown in the previous shot, using his abilities to carry the ball and the decision to shoot from a long-range distance as it is one of Partey’s offensive features, and regardless of it being the reason for his team’s second goal, the perfect shot from afar is one of the advantages of Thomas.
In spite of his distinctive performance in the defensive situation, and the marked offensive development, we can talk about some points that could prevent Thomas from being ranked the best in his position.
There is no doubt that Thomas is one of the most important Atletico Madrid players and influential in Diego Simeone’s tactics, but his performance is slow and lacking in concentration. I will try to explain this by some examples of him making poor decisions.
Here, Thomas decided to keep the ball and go to the flank, which puts him in a position to lose numerical superiority in favour of Real Madrid 5 v 3, and the ball was then cut from him.
This problem causes him to lose possession of the ball a lot because of his failure to make decisions correctly, as the percentage of his lost possession is around 10.44 per game. 50% of them are in the middle third on the field as shown above.
In addition to that, he somewhat lacks discipline and this appears especially in the strong interventions of the opponent’s players in an attempt to tackle the ball, because he has accumulated 13 yellow cards during this season so far.
This could be due to some weakness in the footwork during the defensive state, although he tries to overcome these problems by his feathery length.
Thomas Partey is a high-quality player who can control the playing tempo within the style of Atletico Madrid, which he was able to prove during this current and previous season. We tried in this scout report to highlight his defensive capabilities as well as his capabilities in offensive support, and the extent of his influence within the team.