Analysing Matteo Guendouzi: An in depth look at the Frenchman’s game
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
As we continue to plough through this dire period without football, we on the site have to dig deep for content to produce daily articles. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today, but fortunately for me, the ‘Guendouzi slander train’ creeped out of their caves on Sunday night after I posted the flamboyant midfielder’s statistics for this season on my Instagram.
“He’s really not that good. Turns the ball over and makes reckless challenges that often lead to set pieces in dangerous areas,” one cried, whilst another spewed incorrect statistics to suit their agenda, by declaring that 85% of his passes are backward, despite the Frenchman being one of the best ball progresses in the League.
I think it’s reasonable to be sceptical of certain aspects of Guendouzi’s game, but it’s completely unreasonable to be sceptical of the aspects which he’s blatantly very good at. So, with that being said, I thought I’d take an in depth look at his game, assessing what his strengths are, and where he could certainly improve.
The obvious area of strength in Guendouzi’s game is his on the ball abilities. His ball retention and ball progression skills are already up there with some of the better central midfielders in the division. Not only can he keep the ball consistently and resist the press effectively, he is able to move it up the pitch and get it into the danger zones for the flair players to make things happen.
This is evident in his impressive 89% pass accuracy across all competitions this season and just under one turnover (when a player loses the ball via a miscontrol or a failed dribble) per 90 minutes last campaign. Comparing this to other midfielders at the club, Lucas Torreira managed an 88% pass accuracy and 1.1 turnovers per 90 in 2018/19, whilst Granit Xhaka has an 87% pass accuracy in all competitions this season. Whilst occasionally Guendouzi can be sloppy on the ball, particularly last season at times, in general, he does not lose it. This definitely being an attribute you want in a midfielder operating in deep areas.
In terms of progressing the ball, Guendouzi is one of the most prolific deep progresses (passes, dribbles and carries into the final third per 90) in the Premier League. Last season, he managed 8.3 deep progressions per 90, whilst this campaign this has been elevated to 8.5, with Granit Xhaka, the player you’d typically associate ball progression with at Arsenal, averaging 8.3 per 90.
Guendouzi’s ability to beat the opposition press with expansive passes and to also deliver perfectly executed balls over the top of low block defences, despite having little room in behind them, is exquisite. This evident in his assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameayng’s equaliser in the North London Derby in September, and also in the video below, which has several examples of these perfectly placed passes.
Furthermore, this season Guendouzi has improved drastically in his ball carrying and dribbling abilities. Particularly in the chaotic Arsenal side of the first half of the season, Guendouzi would often drag Arsenal up the pitch with piercing runs from midfield into the opposition’s final third. This is not only reflected in his deep progressions increase, but also in the fact that he’s just four completed dribbles away from exceeding his completed dribbles number from last season in the Premier League, despite playing more than 600 minutes fewer.
The Frenchman also tops Premier League charts for fouls won by central midfielders, winning 2.5 per 90 this campaign and 2.6 last. This demonstrating his agility, nimbleness and ability to relieve the team from pressure and escape high pressing systems.
Additionally, his character and personality are definitely non-tangible strengths worth pointing out.
Despite all his positive ball playing contributions, there are problems defensively. Whilst his 1.5 interceptions per 90 suggests he is a player who reads the game well and helps protect the back four, this may be a result of his over-aggression, positional ill-discipline and also the chaotic system he was deployed in earlier in the season.
His lack of positional awareness and discipline meant sitting in a rigid tactical shape and structure was problematic in the early, early days of Arteta, and was probably the reason the Spaniard dropped him from the side. Since coming back into the team recently, it’s been evident that intense coaching has enabled him to adapt to playing in a strict structure.
However, Guendouzi’s positional awareness when the opposition counters us is still an issue. He often doesn’t know how to utilise his body to position himself in the best possible way to make a tackle or intervention of some sort, and his lack of mobility often exposes him to quick attacking midfielders. If he is to settle in a traditional number six or number eight role in the future, this area of his game is where he has to drastically improve.
As well as this, there’s also the obvious element of direct offensive contributions, e.g key passes, assists and goals. Whilst he’s never going to be an Aaron Ramsey, and certainly not an advanced playmaker, his direct chance creation and goal threat in the forms of xA and xG are very low, and you’d expect him to up these slightly, even if it’s not what his role really requires.
That’s about it. An in depth analysis on Matteo Guendouzi’s game. Let me know if you’d like to see more of them because I definitely enjoyed doing this one. Cheers for reading.