Matteo Guendouzi: The ‘Regista’ Arsenal always longed for?

Guendouzi

The clock read 26:20 when an Arsenal player from the midfield went deep into their own Dbox and dispossessed another from the PSG ranks. Some eight or ten seconds later, he pinged an absolute magisterial 50-yard peach for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Gabonese striker received it and fired a shot which the PSG keeper pushed away. The entire Singapore national stadium was left dumbfounded.

This curly haired teenager just picked a pass even the Xavis, Pirlos, Alonsos would be proud of. With just one pass, Matteo Guendouzi had announced his arrival to the European scene. There’s a young sensation in our ranks- was the reaction from many Arsenal fans.

It just wasn’t this one pass that got everyone talking. His stats against the French champions boasted an impressive 96% pass accuracy with 5 tackles won. He also dribbled successfully thrice. A proper ‘Regista’, something Arsenal fans haven’t had the privilege to have in their ranks since forever. Still 19, Guendouzi also impressed in his first match against Atletico Madrid. Just like this one pass against PSG, there was one solitary moment that defined Guendouzi. As three Atleti players closed him on, he still demanded the ball heavily. Upon getting it, he glided past one almost in Zidane-esque style and drew a foul.

The move impressed everyone. Mesut Ozil was seen applauding the teenager after that move. Standing at over six feet tall, Guendouzi possesses some serious agility to glide past people. At Arsenal, he’ll be wearing Granit Xhaka’s #29, as the Swiss switches to #34. The French youngster also has the confidence of shooting from range like his predecessor of the #29 shirt in Arsenal. Impressing in his first two matches, the French youngster didn’t take time to make himself popular amongst the followers of his club.

Of course, this is not something Guendouzi’s done for the first time. After joining Lorient from PSG’s youth team, the youngster played just nine games for his side in his first ever senior season. Even though Lorient got relegated to Ligue 2, Guendouzi’s talents didn’t go under the radar. Big clubs were already keeping tabs of him. But it was during the 17-18 season that Guendouzi really sprung to life. Despite Lorient failing to come back to Ligue 1, his composure at the middle of the park impressed quite a few clubs. Despite being with the team throughout the season, he only played just 21 matches. The main reason being his reluctance to sign a contract extension with Lorient. Manager Mickael Landreau even dubbed the teenager’s attitude ‘affected’. According to the gaffer, the interest from the likes of Manchester City, AS Roma had turned his head. So much so, he wouldn’t sign an extension with the club that gave him the chance to showcase his talent in the big stage.

But Guendouzi was set in his head. His target was to leave Lorient for a big European club that will give him the exposure in the world stage. And to be honest, who can blame him? France being the World Champions with a side set to play the next edition with almost the same squad, chances of a new player breaking into the team is as slim as it gets. Having represented France in U18, U19 and U20 levels, Guendouzi’s dream is to wear the blue of the ‘Les Blues’ and rub shoulders with the Griezmanns, the Mbappes and the Pogbas. And his first stepping stone came within a year of his regular first team football. Guendouzi was a very sought after footballer during this summer. But after much speculation, it was Unai Emery’s Arsenal who managed to acquire his services.

And he’s exactly the sort of player the Gunners were lacking. Tall, strong and aggressive. Someone who isn’t shy of tackling. Someone who can dispossess opponents easily. And also, someone who isn’t afraid to fire a bullet from thirty or forty yards out. His presence is somewhat reassuring given his huge stature. With the height advantage, he’s also great in winning aerial duels. With all the physical attributes, he also has the grace of a central midfielder. Always asking for a pass, receiving it and getting away from his marker is something he’s extremely efficient at. Distributions are amazing as well. All in all, he’s got everything to be the complete midfield package if nurtured properly. Granted, with players like Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and another newcomer in the name of Lucas Torriera, Guendouzi may get very little time on the pitch. He may be used in the relatively unimportant FA Cup, Carling Cup and UEFA Europa League matches to gather up experience for the big stage. With Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere gone, don’t be surprised to see him in the Premier League even.

But Arsenal fans or anyone falling in love with the youngster and having huge expectations from him this season has to realise that this is only a 19-year old we’re talking about. This isn’t a make or break season for him, rather one for the learning and maturity. Let’s not forget his first full season in Europe was in the French second division. Therefore, expecting him to start every other match for Arsenal and prove his worth like he did against PSG and Atletico Madrid is just not justified to the youngster. He has a bright future ahead of him. And Arsenal need to ensure proper grooming so that when pressurized, this carbon turns into diamond.

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