Of all the summer signings made by Arsenal, none catch the eye quite like Matteo Guendouzi. That’s partly down to the mop of hair on top of his head. Comparisons have already been drawn to a certain David Luiz. However, it’s also down to the playing style of the young Frenchman.
Signed from Lorient as one for the future, Guendouzi has been thrown in at the deep end by new Arsenal manager Unai Emery. The 19-year-old was a key figure for the Gunners throughout pre-season and kept his place for the opening Premier League fixture against champions Manchester City on Sunday.
That put him up against the likes of Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan. City boast the best midfield unit in the Premier League, one of the best in the European game right now, and this is what Guendouzi faced on his competitive bow for his new club. The task could hardly have been any tougher.
Indeed, Guendouzi looked out of his depth at times. As is the norm for a Pep Guardiola outfit, Man City were on top of him every time he received the ball, with the young Frenchman a little slack in possession more than once. This prompted a wave of social media derision, with even a few moans and groans heard from the Emirates Stadium crowd.
Arsenal must stand by their young, midfield talent, though. Guendouzi’s performance against City might have been unpolished, raw, but he always showed for the ball. While Arsenal teams in years gone by have gone missing on the big stage, Guendouzi only seemed to be emboldened by some of his struggles. That is a quality that Emery will need more of going forward.
“It’s his first match here in the Premier League,” the former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla boss explained after the opening weekend defeat. “He has personality and quality and if he is on the pitch he is improving very quickly.” Indeed, Guendouzi has the sort of personality Arsenal desperately need at this time.
What’s more, he’s the sort of midfielder the Gunners have lacked for years. Many have pitted Guendouzi directly against Lucas Torreira, arguing that the Uruguayan should be ahead of the French youngster in the pecking order. It’s true that Torreira probably should have started against Man City, but it shouldn’t be a case of one over the other. They are very different midfielders and could actually compliment each other in the same side.
It’s somewhat understandable that having called for change for so long there is an air of impatience at Arsenal. They want to make up for lost time and they want to do it right away. Guendouzi might well drop out of the starting lineup in the coming weeks, but he has shown enough already to suggest he has a promising career with the Gunners. However, he needs the faith of his manager, which he has, and his own fans, who have still to be convinced.
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