An injury to Thomas Partey would be a ‘hammer blow’ to Arsenal’s hopes of being crowned Premier League champions.
But talkSPORT has been told how their FA Cup exit to rivals Manchester City actually showed Mikel Arteta’s side has the edge in the title race.
Ghanaian midfielder Partey was taken off with an injury at half-time of the Gunners’ FA Cup fourth round match against Man City as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
Partey has been in fine form for Arsenal this season, proving to be a crucial cog in their midfield.
And former Gunner Adrian Clarke feels he is one player Arsenal cannot afford to lose as they continue pushing for the Premier League title.
Speaking on Weekend Sports Breakfast, Clarke said: “One player Arsenal don’t want to lose right now is Thomas Partey. He is the glue that holds it all together.
“He’s arguably the best in his position in the country right now, so it would be a hammer blow and that is why they are in the market for another central midfielder because he is so dominant,” he added – referring to their chase for Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.
Elsewhere, Carlton Cole felt Arsenal’s exit from the FA Cup had a rather mementoes silver lining as they push for their first league title since their Invincibles 2003/04 campaign.
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The former West Ham United striker felt the only downside to Arsenal’s defeat is the fact that they won’t be able to give time to their fringe players.
But he said Arteta will feel after the slim defeat that his full strength team should have no problem beating City in the league, with the title rivals set for their first meeting of the campaign on February 15.
After making six changes to the first-team, Cole said on the Sports Bar about Arsenal: “They’re out of the FA Cup, but are they bothered?
“They played some fringe players – you wouldn’t say that’s their starting line up.
“Those first-team players want to keep as a fresh as they can every week, because they want to win the Premier League.
“They had a little go, but at the same time Arteta wasn’t screaming and cursing on the sideline, he was chilled.
“That shows me that this was planned. Like, ‘OK, if we get through, we get through, but if we don’t get through… sweet’.
“They can concentrate on the league now. Arteta is probably thinking, ‘Let them [City] worry about the extra games, let them be a little bit jaded coming into the games facing us and we’ll run then ragged’.
“I think Arteta has played a blinder.
“It’s not that much of a big blow. I think they’re fine.”