Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is convinced Thomas Partey will remain at the Emirates, despite the arrival of England star Declan Rice.
The Ghanaian midfielder has been linked with a move to Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia, but Arteta said he remains a key part of his plans.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s pre-season clash with Manchester United in New Jersey, Arteta said: “Without a question of a doubt, Thomas Partey is a super important player for us and for me. I want him to be in the team.
“Every time I spoke to him and every time I have a conversation with him, his will is to stay with us. For me, there’s nothing there at all.”
He said the arrival of Rice does not mean any lessening of Partey’s role.
“They can play together and that was in my plans,” he said. “You want to improve the squad and have more quality.
“We need players who can play together but we need players in the same position who can fight for their places.
“It’s something we haven’t had over the last few years and we wanted to improve that and that’s why we bought Declan.”
Arsenal finished second behind Manchester City in the Premier League last season, having topped the table for much of the campaign – an experience Arteta believes will help his players as they look to make the next step.
“I think what happened last year probably was necessary to learn the lessons you have to learn get better and be more successful and achieve what we want to achieve,” he said. “It’s part of that road and that journey.
“The level is going to go up. Teams are getting better and the league is getting stronger, it is only going to get harder.
“We have to be better. We have to play better and we have to do things better than we did last year. That’s what we are working on at the moment.”
Arteta was asked about whether Arsenal would go for Kylian Mbappe amid his dispute with Paris St-Germain but declined to get involved in the discussion. “I never talk about players who don’t play for our club,” he said.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, who made a huge impression in his first season after switching from Manchester City, is convinced they can make that step.
He said: “I said a lot of times in the past, I have the feeling and, the smell I would say, that Arsenal’s time is coming.
“Unfortunately last season we didn’t achieve what we wanted but it was a lot of good lessons for us during the season and, for sure, it will help us during the next one. I’m full of confidence so let’s see what’s going to happen.”