Matteo Guendouzi’s Arsenal exit is seemingly edging closer, and given the promise he showed when he first arrived in England, it’s difficult to ignore what might have been.
The Frenchman signed for the Gunners back in July 2018 as an unknown to most but immediately had an impact at the Emirates Stadium. Physically, Guendouzi took to the Premier League like a duck to water and he seemed a player perfectly suited to play in the English top-flight.
It was clear he was still a little raw when it came to his tactical understanding of the game but he made up for that with enthusiasm, work-rate and immediately brought the kind of passion and bite in midfield the Gunners had been missing for years.
So where did it all go wrong for the young Frenchman?
Guendouzi, along with a number of other young players at the club, benefitted from Unai Emery’s management and the Spaniard showed great trust in Frenchman.
With every passing week, this young midfielder who had only played in the French top-flight on eight occasions prior to his arrival was growing in confidence and it was clear the Premier League didn’t daunt him.
The end of Emery’s tenure however saw things change dramatically for the 22-year-old who, having proved himself once, would have to start from scratch in order to win Mikel Arteta’s approval.
Arteta’s first port of call having taken over from Emery was to get rid of the bad eggs within the camp and unfortunately, Guendouzi’s conduct behind the scenes saw him fall into that category.
Concerns regarding the player’s attitude existed prior to the infamous incident with Brighton‘s Neal Maupay. Contrary to what was reported at the time, events at Brighton were the final straw rather than the sole incident which prompted Arteta to exclude him from the first team going forwards.
Guendouzi joined Hertha Berlin on loan at the start of the 2020/21 campaign and did ok without pulling up any trees, but regardless it seems Arsenal are unwilling to give him a second chance and that will be partly due to the fact his contract with the club is due to expire at the end of next season. So in terms of a sale, it feels like now or never.
The signing of Guendouzi felt like a throwback to the Arsene Wenger days. A player from Ligue 1, relatively unknown over whom there were question marks with regards to his attitude. And perhaps Wenger, described by many of his former players as a father figure, may have had greater success or patience in trying to tame Guendouzi.
Arteta, perhaps rightly so, wasn’t willing to give him another chance and put up with his petulance behind the scenes – the kind of which often comes through in his game. Guendouzi has all the attributes to go on and become a formidable midfield player – he’s physically dominant, works incredibly hard and with the right coach he can certainly improve his game from a positional standpoint.
However, his questionable attitude from a very young age, as claimed by former Arsenal striker Jeremie Aliadiere who trained with Guendouzi at Lorient, has always threatened to prevent him from fulfilling his full potential.