When Arsenal acquired Matteo Guendouzi in the summer from Lorient for £7 million, the expectations were that he’d have a bit part role to play and probably gain the majority of his first-team minutes in the cups or off the bench.
But courtesy of his ability to adapt so rapidly to Unai Emery’s demands, unwavering confidence and his undoubted quality, he’s become an instrumental component of this Arsenal side. Indeed, the fact he’s made 35 appearances, of which 28 have been starts, in all competitions, suitably depicts what an important figure he’s become.
Tenacious, energetic and oozing youthful enthusiasm, his emergence has been one of the highlights of the Emery era so far, as the Spanish tactician has placed his faith in the youngster and been duly rewarded by Guendouzi through his performances. Being thrown in the deep end from the off, the French U21 international is clearly grateful to Emery for backing him and giving him a chance.
“He’s shown plenty of confidence in me since I arrived here. Not any coach would throw a 19-year-old youngster into Premier League action, particularly at a club like Arsenal,” Guendouzi insisted.
“I’m very grateful to him for that. He’s making me work hard and has already helped me improve considerably since I arrived. I could feel that even in the first few training sessions over my first few weeks and months. I’m very pleased to have Unai Emery as my coach. I’m convinced I’ll be able to make progress under him by working hard, which is the most important thing for me.”
- Peter Drury’s commentary for Ramsey’s goal v Spurs
- Aubameyang’s penalty v Spurs should have been retaken
- Leno makes save of the season contender v Spurs
Also aided by the Gunners’ French speaking contingent, the exciting midfielder also credits the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette, plus the tight knit, inclusive dressing room atmosphere, as key reasons behind his success so far.
Being tasked with operating in a number of different roles in varying formations, he’s handled the step up in class from Ligue 2 to the Premier League with remarkable comfort on both sides of the ball.
To start with his defensive exertions, and his relentless pressing has been a standout, where he’s followed his manager’s demands wonderfully. So rapid to respond to pressing triggers, like when an opponent is receiving a sloppy backwards or lateral pass, if a pass is underhit or when his target is receiving back to goal or in an open body shape, his timing has been spot on. Vitally, he regularly curves his harrying nicely, in order to block off passing lanes behind him to limit the ball holder’s options and force a poor decision or turnover.
Proactive and alert, the former Paris Saint-Germain prodigy has counterpressed with similarly disruptive intent, for he immediately brings the pressure when Arsenal lose possession in their attacking third. By doing so, he hopes to regain the ball instantly to avoid the opposition counter attacking while allowing Arsenal to attack again from an ideal advanced location.