After Unai Emery made it his priority to sign a young French midfielder named Matteo Guendouzi, Arsenal fans seemed to fall in love with him.
His bouncing ‘fro along with his age and the fact the club reportedly beat clubs like PSG to his signing meant he was an image that fans looked to as a potential future star.
Once he started playing, fans praised him for his bravery and ability on the ball. He was constantly running, constantly showing for the ball, not afraid to collect and receive on the half-turn deep in his own half and not afraid to get stuck in in a more physical league than he would have been used to.
All of these reasons led to Arsenal fans dubbing Guendouzi as the next big thing not only at Arsenal, but potentially in Europe. He was mentioned in conversations alongside the top prospects in the world football and was seen as a shining light despite Arsenal’s lowly league positions and poor performances.
When Mikel Arteta took over, fans expected Guendouzi to be the star in a possession based game. Instead he’s barely featured.
Originally he played games here and there while Arteta figured out his team. Granit Xhaka established himself quickly as the number one midfielder and Guendouzi found himself competing against the likes of Dani Ceballos, Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock for a place in the team. Then they took on Brighton and Guendouzi’s attitude issues seemingly came to light.
After a clash with Neil Maupay, Guendouzi reportedly told him that he earns more than now than he or his teammates would ever earn and it rubbed everyone up the wrong way. Arsenal then went on a training camp where Guendouzi and Arteta fell out over his training and professionalism.
Arteta made the decision there and then that Guendouzi wouldn’t feature regularly anymore and it’s now expected that the 21 year old will leave the club this summer. But why was he so loved anyway?
Arsenal fans weren’t particularly used to a young midfielder showing bravery in tough situations, probably since Cesc Fabregas was at the club. Similarly to when Manchester United signed Ander Herrera, the club weren’t used to having a traditional central midfielder who could do a bit of everything with some quality. As they saw more of Herrera though and the club brought in better midfielders, his flaws became more evident.
Guendouzi isn’t the best passer of the ball, but he’s not bad. He isn’t the most intelligent on the ball, but he’s not stupid. He’s not a goalscoring threat, he doesn’t play killer passes, he’s an okay tackler, he’s positionally okay and he’s a hard worker. Those are not the attributes of a potentially world class footballer.
The fact that he is young has fans, especially on social media, exaggerating performances or good things he does. Manchester United fans do it with Scott McTominay, Chelsea fans do it with Loftus-Cheek – it’s a standard thing in football.
In this instance though, Guendouzi has been found out very early. I have no doubt that he will go on to have a good career in a top league, he is talented. But he isn’t and likely will never be good enough for a top level team, competing for trophies and continental glory.