When Arsenal launched their new Adidas kit video ad back in July ahead of the new season, the likes of Mesut Ozil, Sead Kolasinac, Hector Bellerin and a couple of other Arsenal stars took the spotlight. In the video, Mesut Ozil made a key statement “I can’t wait for the new season” and it was naturally expected the German was set for an exciting season ahead especially as the Gunners spent heavily and brought in some interesting names headlined by Nicolas Pepe. With all of the activity that went on in the Arsenal mainstay, not one person could have predicted ahead that the creative responsibility on the pitch would fall largely on a 20-year-old Mateo Guendouzi. Talking about taking chances, the French-born midfielder has done just that and the hype around him has gotten louder with each passing game-week.
Guendouzi has put in a string of impressive performances for the Gunners this season and was also rewarded with his first senior call up to the national side over the international break early last month.
And while he’s enjoying himself in the heart of the Gunners midfield, a fellow teammate has gone on to praise him and gas him up ahead for the future. Rightly so and no harm in that. But a different perspective to Guendouzi at Arsenal might indicate the midfielder is only “superb” because the players expected to perform have not lived up to standards and hence it’s easy to notice the next best thing around.
Alexandre Lacazette believes his fellow country-man Matteo Guendouzi can improve to be one of the best midfielders around due to his ‘good ambition’.
Guendouzi was named the club’s player of the month for September and was also nominated this week for the 2019 Golden Boy prize, awarded to the world’s best player under the age of 21.
Now Lacazette, who has a close bond with Gunedouzi along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has spoken of his happiness at the accolades coming the way of the 20-year-old midfielder.
‘He is like the younger brother [in the friendship group with me and Auba]!’ Lacazette told Arsenal.com.
‘We all really have a good relationship, we like to work and to laugh together so it’s really good.
‘I’m really happy for Matteo [for being named September Player of the Month], he played really well, he helped the team when we needed him, he is really improving each season so we are all really happy with his performances this month.
‘We can see that every top midfielder in the world is like this [in terms of demanding the ball and being brave]. They all want to take the ball.
‘Matteo has a good ambition, he wants to be one of the best players in his position so every day he is trying to be the best and this month he showed that he can be.’
Lacazette hasn’t exactly gone overboard in his praises but are they over-stretched as a result of an “under-performing” Arsenal squad or is it all truly deserved?
Make no mistake about it, Guendozi is an important cog in the Arsenal squad and he doesn’t seem like letting down anytime soon. As it stands, the 20-year-old has amassed a total of 693 minutes of Premier League action this season (Whoscored) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (the club’s top scorer) is the only outfield Arsenal player to have seen more minutes than Guendozi (720). That alone speaks volumes and shows how highly rated he is in Unai Emery’s books.
However, In a season where teenagers Joe Wilock and Bukayo Saka have seen decent game time, Torreira deployed in an unfamiliar position, Ozil barely making the match-day squad and Granit Xhaka being just Granit Xhaka, it would be normal for the only available consistent performer to take all plaudits. And without doubt, no one fits the slot than Guendozi so far.
Frankly speaking, he has been the most consistent midfield performer and always looks the hungriest to perform and never runs away from a tackle whenever he can. But it brings us to the important question: Would Guendouzi be a starter in the first place if the likes of Ozil, Xhaka, Torreira were all on superb form with decent game time as well? It’s the same reason literally every Arsenal youngster has gotten praise whenever they played this season. Not to say they’ve not been good, but the disappointment from so-called “experienced” players has added to it all as well.
The likes of Bukayo Saka, Joe Willock, Gabriel Martinelli are only getting such degree of positive raves because the expected first-teamers have not been existent or barely up to their best. Take a Mateo Guendouzi and slot him in a City or a Liverpool side, would he make the first team? Yes on some occasions. But would he start eight consecutive EPL games and miss only 27 minutes from a possible 720 available in total? Probably not. At best, he would be a starter for the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup competitions.
A prime example is Phil Foden at Ciy who is equally golden for his age as well as Guendozi but literally struggles for game-time at City and has only managed a mere 10 minutes in the EPL so far this season (Whoscored). Not to blame anyone, but when the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernado Silva, David Silva, Ikay Gundogan to mention a few are all available for selection, only an “extra-ordinary” young player with proven first team experience will be capable of breaking into that team and that explains Rodri. The same cannot be said for Arsenal and that’s why it’s so easy to get carried away with Guendouzi at the moment.
Mirror Guendouzi’s club stance to that of his national side France and one would realize he has been good but looks better because the Arsenal team have under-performed to a certain extent and at the moment no other midfield personnel stands out than the 20-year-old.
Speaking as quoted by Maxifoot, France coach Deschamps said early in September:
“Do not ask him (Guendouzi) too much, he’s a young player.
“He’s playing a lot of games with Arsenal, where there’s a lot of competition, he’s a modern midfielder, box to box, with a lot of volume and technical qualities.
“What I expect is that he brings his freshness, his dynamism. He is a very young player but with very good potential.”
And that is the reality of things. He has great potential but is having to do more because of the Arsenal situation at the moment. Arsenal fans must not get carried away and expect too much from the 20-year-old. He might have won the player of the month award but that in itself showed just how bad other Arsenal players were. Imagine if Pepe was firing on all blazes and David Luiz made his mark to the Arsenal back-line by overseeing a good run of clean sheets, perhaps there might have been more candidates to stand up for the award. Not to mention the injury that kept Alexandre Lacazette out of action for a while.
The future is bright for the young midfielder but a heavy burden should not be placed on him too soon – one he might not be able to recover from. Good performances earn all the plaudits but all it takes is one bad game and the pendulum will swing in a totally different direction.