If Atlético Madrid ever make a statue of Thomas Partey, there are a couple of things they must take into consideration. Number one, they must make sure not to hire the same sculptor behind the infamous Cristiano Ronaldo bust at Madeira’s Airport. Second, they must have the midfielder in a shooting pose, because that’s what he is becoming known for.
Thomas’ goal of the season contender against Alavés on Saturday night was not the first time he has rifled one in from distance. The Ghanaian now has 12 goals for los colchoneros and seven have been shots from outside the opposition’s penalty area.
There was one against Reus in the Copa del Rey in the 2015/16 season, his first strike for the first team, plus three last year (Deportivo la Coruña, Las Palmas and Qarabag) and three this season (Huesca, Athletic Club and Alavés).
It’s becoming a habit and a good habit. The 25-year-old continues to improve as a central midfielder, forming a super doble pivote partnership with Rodrigo in the middle of the pitch and even thriving without the young Spaniard by his side, as was the case in the Basque Country on Saturday night. Yet this ability to strike the ball from distance is his wildcard, his party trick, his special sauce, his not-so-secret weapon.
He’s like Philippe Coutinho, but without the price tag and with his role in the team perfectly understood. When Coutinho signed for Barcelona last January, there was a lot of talk about how the Brazilian’s shooting ability from distance would help the Catalan club to break down stingy deep-lying defences and that same rhetoric can be applied to Atlético and to Thomas. It’s no surprise that the teams he has taken the most shots against this season have been the likes of Huesca, Leganés and Club Brugge.
Imagine what a useful tool he’d have been in the Champions League second leg against Juventus, for which he was suspended. Of course he had a stinging long-range shot during the first leg, which was well saved by Wojciech Szczęsny, and he could have tested the Polish goalkeeper some more in Turin. With Atlético sitting so deep in that game and rarely able to reach the Italian side’s penalty area, his strikes from distance would have given los rojiblancos a chance of the crucial away goal.
Atleti fans shouldn’t lament, though. Thomas still has plenty of piledrivers in his boots and will score many more important and wonderful goals for the club. He’ll surely score so many that the sculptors will be spoilt for choice when selecting one strike upon which to model his statue.