Forget that he was a bit culpable for Raheem Sterling’s opener for Manchester City and subsequently hauled off at halftime, Matteo Guendouzi could play a vital role for Arsenal this season and beyond.
Arsenal ‘s summer was memorable. Five new faces joined Unai Emery at the Emirates. In all aspects, Guendouzi began at the end of that chain. However, the young Frenchman could prove the shrewdest business the Gunners conducted in the window.
Gooners aren’t use to this much activity. Not only was their darling club active in the market space; deals were wrapped up in record time. It’s a paradigm shift from Arsene Wenger’s time The Frenchman was notoriously reluctant to sign players for hefty fees despite having large funds available.
The first thing that jumps out at you about Guendouzi is his long, curly hair. He looks like Chelsea’s David Luiz but plays more like Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira: tall, strong, combative and tireless.
Also, like the former skipper, Guendouzi arrived as a toddler, without much fanfare.
Born in the Paris suburbs in 1999, Guendouzi began his career at Paris Saint-Germain in 2005, when he was more literally a toddler. He spent nine years in their youth ranks before joining Lorient’s set-up in 2014, then featured for Les Merlus’ B side 24 times before graduating to the first team at 17. The teenager’s debut came in a 2-1 league defeat to Nantes.
Arsenal has long missed a midfielder of Vieira’s quality. The Frenchman was a key cog in the “Invincibles” side that went through the 2003/2004 Premier League season unbeaten.
In his brief time with the Gunners, Guendouzi has sparked memories. He’s caused many to sit up and take notice.
Guendouzi was Arsenal’s best performer in pre-season. Even Emery had to be shocked. Composed, intelligent and technically proficient, the youngster wasn’t shy.
His positional sense is brilliant, as are his movement, decision-making and execution. The Poissy-native already knows his next move before receiving the ball.
As a holding midfielder, ball distribution is key. Especially in a Gunners team that patiently builds from the back. Guendouzi has impressed with his passing. He plays short balls back to the defence and longer ones into teammates in more advanced positions when the opportunity presents.
There is a refreshing directness to Guendouzi’s play. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, in particular, can appreciate his work. He recognises their runs early and provides surgical through balls.
Pace, directness and intent have all been absent from Arsenal’s play in recent years. Guendouzi delivers all three.
Pre-season is obviously different. Crowds are less partisan. Among those players who think they’re guaranteed a place, the stakes are non-existent. Guendouzi is by no means the finished article.
He must add muscle. Some referees will wave away free kicks when defenders try to bully him. He’ll also have to temper his enthusiasm for the riskiest passes.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby
Like O-Posts on Facebook
You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts