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What next for Matteo Guendouzi after the reported “bust-up” with Arteta?

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)

As the media feasts on reports that Matteo Guendouzi was dropped from the matchday squad against Newcastle after a row with Mikel Arteta and his support staff in Dubai over his lack of effort in training, the big question that arises is, “can he bounce back and showcase maturity by putting in the effort to back up his talent or is his pig-headed nature going to cost him?”

Sven Mslintat, Arsenal’s head of recruitment back in 2018, compared Guendouzi to Julian Weigl (when he was at 1860 Munich) in an interview with a German magazine:

“I have to know how to interpret the data. Julian Weigl's stats were pretty mediocre while playing at 1860 Munich, even with the ball. But the reason for this was his role as box to box player, with long balls floating over him. Often younger players haven’t had the time to learn the tactical understanding of the game. Our thoughts were: If we put Weigl in the defensive midfield with better runners around him, he would be a completely different player. He could distribute the ball, wait and balance the whole game. It was the same with Matteo Guendouzi. I saw him at FC Lorient, when the club still was in the first division. I like the club, they always produce interesting players. Guendouzi stood out with his long hair and his personality. But I also concentrated on his weaknesses. Are they trainable? Matteo ran unnecessarily across the whole pitch, but I was sure: It’s only a matter of training and time, before he learns when to run. It was an important transfer for us, because we wanted to show the world: We’re still the old Arsenal which gives opportunities to younger player.”

The talent and fighting spirit have been on display since the day he joined the club, but somewhere down the line it is also what’s hampering his development. Unai Emery hoped to harness his talent by giving him the freedom to roam all over the pitch but 18 months down the line, his lack of positional awareness that Mslintat identified is still his biggest weakness.

His performance in the comeback against Aston Villa, albeit a game that seems so long ago after everything that has happened, was incredible and the ability to grab the game by the scruff of its neck to drive the team was very evident. His performance in the FA cup tie at Bournemouth, playing at the base of the midfield, brought out his strengths and he certainly stuck to his task well. He was even called up to the French national team based on his performances at club level, but this sudden rise to fame can get to your head and Arteta is just giving him a reality check. This is the Spanish Head Coach’s first test as a manager against a player not showing the right attitude, so he will be keen to assert his authority to make a point to the rest of the squad.

Guendouzi recently mentioned that he was getting video clips to take home to help him improve and grow, which suggests that Arteta is willing to put in the time to help the younger players improve but ultimately, the onus is on the player.

Guendouzi finds himself with his back to the wall and that fighting spirit of his will come in hand and hopefully, his performances in training improve drastically. Ceballos was given the chance to start after changing his attitude in training, so Guendouzi doesn’t need to look too far to find his inspiration. Considering how close the French quartet of Matteo, Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe are, it would also be beneficial for the 20-year-old for the captain to step in to have a word and get his head back into the game.

All in all, with an important round of games coming up and the results slowly improving, it would be beneficial for the team if the focus remains on the matches ahead rather than off-the-field nonsense. Guendouzi is a young player with immense talent and personality, but he must learn to tamper this personality so it doesn’t turn into an egotistical problem.

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