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Guendouzi – Stick or Twist?

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.

matteo-guendouzi-fc-arsenal-1568284858-25662

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.

 

 

 

Guendouzi Appreciation Society

Let us take a moment to appreciate Matteo Guendouzi.

The young Frenchman has taken to the Premier League like Tottenham to a semi-final exit and defied his years to put in performances that have filled us all with optimism for his near future.

Joining as a 19 year old, we had been linked with some promising players prior to Guendouzi putting pen to paper, but all had fallen by the wayside. Guendouzi was the kid chosen, and from his displays so far, it appears we have made the right choice.

What makes him so special though? At the time of writing, the kid with the untamed hair has made 28 appearances so far in the campaign, a huge number for a player touted to make his mark first in the Under-23’s.

Guendouzi crazy hair
Guendouzi – The Lion-Haired Talent

Why has Unai Emery invested so much trust in the precocious youth? From what we have seen, one of the main reasons is his fearlessness.

In tight situations, both on the ball and in scoreline, Guendouzi has shown an incredible hunger for possession. He always shows for the ball, and even better than his desire to be on the ball is his instant decision to always be on the front foot.

What makes him different to the midfielders we have is that the sideways pass is his safety net, but his first choice is always to progress up the pitch. He can make that happen with or without the ball – Guendouzi is a decent dribbler and can carry when the need arises, and his eye for a pass highlights a decent eye for someone so young.

His transitional play gives us something we don’t have in our ranks and he has stamina to burn. We must remember his age and lack of experience, however.

At times his decision-making – the last skill normally developed by kids as they grow – has been found wanting, and the negative to go with the positives of youth is that they will make errors on the pitch. That is how anybody learns, and footballers are no different.

We as fans are an impatient bunch, and mistakes on the turf are always met with groans, but when he inevitably makes a boo-boo and puts the team in danger, we must give him the time to learn.

The problem with Guendouzi is that he has made remarkably few since joining the team. He has made a rod for his own back as we expect so much now from him.

Emery obviously realises that Guendouzi is a real talent, and his box-to-box mentality and style is an arrow in our quiver that gives us the ability to adapt tactically. Guendouzi’s midfield versatility is perhaps his biggest strength and it will make him a lynchpin in the side in a year or so.

We have an opponent with a high press? Play Torreira alongside Guendouzi and have the Uruguayan and the Frenchman sitting deeper and tracking. What if we have a team that are sitting deep themselves and willing to hit on the break? A midfield 3 perhaps or Xhaka with Guendouzi, to push forward but have Guendouzi’s pace as a contingency.

Either way, whoever partners Matteo will know they have a player who puts it all in, and leaves nothing behind. They will have a partner willing to muck in when the going gets tough, and the ability to make thing happen or at the very least, get the ball quickly to the dangermen who can create.

Guendouzi is a real find, and his progress rate is quite astonishing. Let us hope he is given the room to grow into the player we all know he can be.

Who Is Matteo Guendouzi?

It flew under the radar a little, but we made our fifth summer signing just after the Lucas Torreira announcement, and it looks to be an exciting one for the future for Arsenal.

The young French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi signed on the dotted line for the Gunners, and the purchase from Ligue 2 Lorient shows that Sven Mislntat and his backroom team were intent on providing Arsenal with a long term midfield option that could prove to be a bargain.

Guendouzi is a ball-carrying midfielder who made his first team breakthrough with Lorient two seasons ago, and last season settled into a first eleven role, and with Lorient playing in the second tier, the French club were in the right position to sell their brightest talent.

What do we know of Guendouzi? This purchase took some research. I had heard of the name but never seen him play, but the French football experts certainly rate him, and liken him to an earlier transfer target of ours – Yancine Adli.

Physically strong and adept at transitioning play with the ball at his feet, Guendouzi is just as much at home at the base of the midfield as he is a box to box role.

Guendouzi made 18 appearances for Lorient as they just missed out on an immediate return to Ligue Un. His career started in Paris however, as he began his youth career with PSG. The 19 year old has already played for France U18, U19 and U20 level.

Guendouzi is not without his risks though. He had a run-in with the coaching team last season after being hooked at half time during a game, and our new Under23 coach Freddie Ljungberg will have to instill the famous Arsenal team values if Guendouzi is to prosper here.

The transfer fee of 7m is a modest one for a highly coveted 19 year old, but it also speaks of a player who could make a massive difference should the environment suit him.

What does next season hold for the 19 year old? Well, a run in the Under23’s looks likely, to gauge how close to a first team debut the Frenchman is. He has already played a smidgen of top-tier football, but the difference between that and making a mark on the Premier League is a chasm.

Unai Emery has commented on the young signing, and his words reveal that Guendouzi is very much part of his immediate plans;

We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him. He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad.”

With Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny and fellow youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles vying for midfield spots, Guendouzi will really have to shine to get the starts he will be craving, but with a full schedule of games and potential injuries to contend with, this signing very much makes sense.

Identifying talent at a young age is pretty much what Sven Mislintat is renowned for – and what we hired him to do. This signing though, will be the first time that the German has really put his name on a transfer, so it will be very interesting to see how Guendouzi prospers.

It’s an exciting time for us Gunners. This summer’s purchases has reaped experience, proven winners, tenacity, strength and a sprinkling of promise. Guendouzi seems to firmly fall into the latter, but with each display, we will see if he can offer what he promises.
Welcome to Arsenal Matteo Guendouzi!