Coming to terms with the prospect of having Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny and Joe Willock as the club's four central midfield options, morale was understandably quite low in north London.
A combination of superior coaching and a realistic tactical blueprint has seen that crop drastically improve, yet anyone predicting an Arsenal surge towards a top-four berth with such tools at their disposal would've been very optimistic indeed.
It took until the final day of the window, but their squad received boost it sorely needed with the £45m addition of Atletico Madrid's Thomas Party. A player who'd been tracked by the Gunners for a number of years became Arteta's record signing, opening the door for greater diversity in their already fluid setup.
Here are a few systems in which Arsenal could utilise Partey.
Receiving an overhaul in all departments, Arteta has also set about giving his side a tactical face lift. Gone are the days of four at the back, an avenue the 38-year-old pursued to account for his defenders literally not being able to defend.
It's proved to be a winning formula, steering Arsenal to FA Cup glory and offering far greater resilience. But enough about the defence, let's take a look at the midfield - even if Partey's involvement will invariably impact all aspects of the side.
Well versed in Diego Simeone's spell book of solidity, Partey has played as one of a central two regularly for the past few years. While the setup differs in this case, he still requires one ideal central partner. Of what Arsenal have to offer, Dani Ceballos fits the bill as his compatriot. Often the Spaniard is forced to drop into deep pivot roles in order to carry possession forward, but he lacks the mobility and drive to truly trouble opposition.
His skillset is more suited in advanced areas where his neat footwork and ability to operate in tight spaces is of use, but he is hamstrung in the sense that he always must keep an eye on turnovers in possession. Xhaka will often cover, but his pace off the mark is frighteningly bad and Ceballos' role extends beyond what he ideally prefers.
Partey's abilities are wide ranging, but as carrier of possession and a telepathic reader of danger, he's tailor made to complement a more offensive minded midfielder. His combative box-to-box style opens doors in mid-to-high areas of the pitch, easing the weight of expectancy on Ceballos. Even in the case of relinquishing possession in the opposition third, being able to cut out passing lanes and recycle the ball allows his teammate to occupy the half spaces where he is most lethal.
On top of that, when Arsenal play out from the back through whichever central quartet Arteta opts for, Partey's composure in pressurised situations means they can continue to have an (now improved) outlet to build attacks from deep.
Learning from the Pep Guardiola school of football, it's widely accepted, if not expected, that Arteta will eventually fluctuate to a 4-3-3 setup. He needs the personnel in order to do this, Partey whom goes a long way towards aiding that transition.
That midfield trio would most likely be completed with Xhaka and Ceballos. Partey would assume the right side of that slot, to accommodate for the runs of Hector Bellerin. The Swiss has done so on the other flank, slotting into a back three to cover for Kieran Tierney's bursts forward, and it's not something that Partey wouldn't be able to do on the opposite flank.
He's obviously not a right-back, but he did actually feature in that position when Atletico played Arsenal at the Emirates during their 1-1 draw back in 2018. In Simeone's system, it's imperative that players can play a multitude of positions as they shift across the pitch in their low-to-mid block. Defensive discipline is non-negotiable.
In an attacking sense, a duo of himself and Xhaka with Ceballos in front would open up similar avenues to mentioned above, but would even grant Partey more license further forward. He doesn't score many, but he does have a lethal right foot on him. Someone not afraid to shoot from distance, when given the opportunity, that has been to Atletico's benefit.
For Ghana, he plays further forward, closer to a number ten than an eight, a ploy the national team taken full advantage of with him scoring ten goals in 27 outings.
Arteta adheres to the mantra of tactical flexibility, imploring his players to constantly take up different positions across the pitch, so even if they aren't set out to be a 4-2-3-1, they have been known to line up as such over the course of 90 minutes.
What Partey offers above all the other midfielders in Arsenal's ranks is an ability to break through the opposition press. His tackling skills, be it sliding or standing, are ferocious, and strength in duels prompts turnovers of possession that can lead to quick breaks.
In a Atletico side that are less adventurous than the Gunners, these can now occur higher up the pitch, and in a 4-2-3-1 formation, will open up spaces for the wide players and number ten operator to spring into unoccupied channels further in front.
An adept ball carrier, if the striker in question is someone with the pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, these bursts through the lines present the openings the Gabon striker has been unable to feed off when his fellow teammates can't break the press, as well as being slotted in on the left hand side.
Partey has a solid range of pass, better at mid-to-short than long, but when at his own belligerent best breaking through opposition lines he can carve open the more accessible avenues to either feed the more advanced midfielder, the wingers or the striker playing on the shoulders of the centre-halves.
Of late we're seeing Arsenal revert closer to a traditional back four when in possession, allowing Tierney and Bellerin to work in tandem with one tucking inside and the other hugging the touchline, so the definitive switch to a 4-3-3 may not be as far away as we think. Granted, he needs the central defenders capable of playing in a two - at the moment it's probably only Gabriel - but the option is now more open for Arteta with the addition of Partey.
4-3-3 will be where he excels the most, though. Balancing the midfield will grant him freedom to switch between his more common holding midfield role and a box-to-box number eight, boosting Arsenal's progression through the centre of the pitch. A trait Arteta has been unable to inject into his style of play since taking the reins.
As a link between both ends of the pitch, Partey can assert himself in a variety of formations, yet it will be the conversion to a more Liverpool and City approach that will see him flourish.
Source : 90min