Arsenal’s squad in terms of youthful talent pushing through is in rude health.
Some of the starlets in our ranks are among the brightest we have seen at the club for some time. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe represent a hopeful future for Arsenal that we can thrive when these kids really start to bloom.
Matteo Guendouzi could be mentioned among these names. The young Frenchman is very highly rated at the club and beyond, but it seems that he is missing one vital ingredient in order to rise above the average and really strike it at the top.
That is humility.
Guendouzi, as I write, is currently training alone after his spat with Neil Maupay of Brighton. His comments toward the Gulls striker revolved around money and how Brighton’s number nine would never be able to earn what Matteo is currently on at Arsenal.
It indicates two things. One, that Guendouzi is prioritising the wrong thing and two? He really needs to put the effort he uses to annoy opponents into his football.
Since then, we have seen stories, or ‘leaks’ circulating around Guendouzi’s attitude at former clubs and of an apparent bust-up with Sokratis at our Dubai training camp earlier this year.
Now we may or may not ever know the truth about his run-in with our Greek defender, but his behaviour at his former club Lorient is a very good gauge of who the boy is behind the player as it is verified information.
His former manager at Lorient, Bernard Casoni, spoke to the media this week and had this to say:
“Guendouzi’s problem is not physical and is not technical. It’s his attitude, it’s not good for the team or the coach. My relationship with him was not very good.”
“I chose him for a cup match against Nice but he was booked very early. The referee told me at half-time to warn Guendouzi: one more fault and off we go, but in the second half nothing changed. I had no choice but to master it. When I did, he refused to shake my hand.”
Most tellingly, Casoni finished with this, “He took his job seriously, his training was no problem and his character is to always want to win.
“Sometimes when he talks it’s good. But sometimes he speaks badly. He talks too much.
“His talent is not in question, this is not the problem. He can be a top player and I think he can still be successful abroad. It is up to him to change his attitude.”
Guendouzi featured heavily under Unai Emery, playing 33 times in our PL campaign alone. This season though, has been a stop-start campaign for Matteo, and early under Arteta, Guendouzi found squeezing his way into the team a tough ask.
The balance of Xhaka and Ceballos has no doubt not helped Guendouzi’s quest for minutes, but it seems that Arteta is not keen on the Frenchman staying at the club. Perhaps one bad apple does spoil the bunch? Just imagine being in that situation – training with a bunch of teammates daily, but one of them is difficult? It would sour the ambience at the training ground to a degree.
But it is undeniable that Guendouzi is talented. He would have no shortage of interested parties should he decide that the going is better on other shores.
How do we avoid another Gnabry situation?
Now there are many facets that aren’t similar – Gnabry’s attitude wasn’t abrasive and he couldn’t get enough gametime from the start. But we have let plenty of young players go, only for them to immediately show us what we are missing.
There is a definite chance of this happening with Guendouzi.
The problem is that if he does stay at Arsenal, how does Arteta get him to tow the line like his other players? Currently, putting him out to train alone is not exactly fertilising positivity. So if Matteo flouts the rules again, how should Arteta react?
Alternatively, if he did it again, would that indicate that Guendouzi is simply a renegade who isn’t interested in harmony and mutual respect?
It’s clear that Guendouzi isn’t the finished article – his positioning smacks of inexperience and he far too often fails to track his man, but we have all seen that he could be a huge player for us.
Or for another club. At this moment in time, it looks likely that our crop of promising youth players will shoulder the responsibility of Arsenal’s immediate future without the help of the crazy-haired Guendouzi.