Matteo Guendouzi: Arsenal’s Next Wunderkind?
This past summer when Arsenal announced the signing of 19-year old midfielder Matteo Guendouzi from FC Lorient in Ligue 2, he instantly written down as someone “for the future.” After two games in, you have to excuse most of us as we wonder whether or not the future has already arrived.
The kid was highly sought after with the likes of BVB and PSG (who incidentally cut him loose at 14) trying to get his signature, but it was Arsenal and the Premier League the lad wanted and well, we’re looking the better off for it.
Through the first two matches, not easy ones for a 19-year old from Ligue 2 to come in and play in, he has looked every bit the promising lad we thought he was. But his performances have been so impressive that Granit Xhaka now has to be worried about his starting place.
So far through those two games he leads the league in most touches (13(), most interceptions (9), most tackles 98) and most fouls won (6). Add to that being named to numerous teams of the week after his performance against Chelsea. Now, its only two games and we have to take it with a grain of salt but the upside to this kid is tremendous.
Still, he is not without issues, and I have been pointing them out. Not because I am a down on the kid, absolutely the opposite, I think this kid is going to be a star, but I am going to hate to see the backlash that comes when he has a run of poor performances, and he will. He’s 19 after all.
Against Man City, his over aggressive nature put him beyond Sterling to prevent the shot on what would be the first goal. Had he sat and in a cover position as Sterling was showed in by Bellerin, the shot may not happen, or his body is in the way to prevent. Additionally, he made an errant midfield pass that was picked up by Kun Aguero and nearly turned in for a 3rd goal.
There were other poor decisions with the ball as well, but there were also moments that made you stand up and say wow. He doesn’t hide from his mistakes either and just keeps on going.
Against Chelsea, his vision and passing range saw him with a glorious through-ball that found Bellering running behind the Chelsea line, that should have been a goal by Aubmeyang.
He’s got vision, he’s got steal, passing range and confidence. All together he’s putting in performances from that position that we’ve not seen in a while at Arsenal. But don’t take my word for it, let Arsenal Legend Ian Wright’s words convince you:
“The best thing I’ve seen in the two games vs Manchester City and Chelsea from this youngster is the kind of heart and spirit and drive and somebody who continuously wants the ball,” Wright told BBC Five Live.
“He’s driving, he’s upset when things go wrong – I haven’t seen that for ages at Arsenal.”
What I worry about is that the Arsenal landscape is littered with promising youngsters who show some promise, we elevate them to a pedestal and soon are forgotten or worse, lambasted when it all goes wrong for the player.
Anyone remember Jeff?
Still, maybe this sudden rise to the top shouldn’t come to as a surprise to us. The kid has a personality that goes along with his talent and its clear that this confidence propels him forward. Former coach Sylvain Ripoll had this to say:
“He loves football, he eats football, drinks football, sleeps football,” he says. “He would be frustrated when training ended, even after two hours. If he has one more hour, he will be practicing with the ball, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot.”
“He has a big personality, and that is a rare personality for a young player.”
One of the best things I’ve read about him is this:
“He believes so much in himself that he is outraged with anyone who doesn’t place him on the same pedestal that he believes he should be placed on,” Hayes says. “He has real issues with that side of his temperament. He is not a bad kid, he’s not nasty, he’s just got an innate, deep belief in himself.”
It’s a bit of an arrogance factor, but that’s alright. I still like humble players, but it doesn’t mean a humble player can’t be extremely confident in themselves. He’s not on Paul Pogba levels of arrogance but he believes in himself. Combine that self-belief with an excellent work ethic and all the technical skills we’ve already discussed, and you’ve got a player who really only has one trajectory – up.
The Premier League season is long, and the kid still has some learning to do. He will experience highs and lows, sometimes all in one game (like versus City.) If the theme with Arsenal this season is one of cautious patience and optimism for the future, then we should approach Matteo Guendouzi’s development in a similar fashion.
However, for a kid who has been stood out at every level he’s played at, it’s hard for us not to collectively think – “hell yeah!”