Guendouzi: A shining light in a pretty dark place

There haven’t been too many shining stars from the midfield down at Arsenal this season (except Torreira), but 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi has sparkled beyond anyone’s expectations.

The French kid’s impressive performance away against Man City in Sunday’s 3-1 loss – and throughout the season – demonstrates just how brilliant he is and how excited we should be to see him develop in an Arsenal shirt.

Here’s a list of what to be grateful for:

Authority, confidence and maturity

Guendouzi has shown fearlessness on the big stage from day one, and he must have impressed Emery and co since day one in training as well because he started Arsenal’s first five games of the season – including Man City and Chelsea.

He plays with the authority of a veteran and the confidence of a Hollywood celebrity surrounded by “yes men” who can’t do wrong. He has the presence of a serious athlete who wants nothing but win and we – and Emery – trust him, despite is age and lack of top experience.

Former Spurs and Man United striker, Dimitar Berbatov, put some nice colours into the picture:

Adding, “He’s playing with a confidence and I want to play against him and smash him a couple of times because he’s so confident on the ball and he’s everywhere on the pitch.”

I’m sure Fellaini felt the same way when he had to pull Guendouzi’s hair to bring him down earlier this season.

Technique and vision

For his age, his technique with the ball and his vision and determination to pass the ball forward is highly impressive as well.

In his second ever game for Arsenal, away against Chelsea, he had a 100% pass completion rate at half-time and the highest rate at full-time with 93,9%. He had similar numbers on Sunday against Man City, 100% and 91% respectively.

If it’s on tight places or not, long balls, short balls, with his right or left foot, Guendouzi can manage – and then some.

He can even make Lichtsteiner score:

Bravery and stamina

He doesn’t shy away when the tackles start flying, being on both ends of the ensuing pain seemingly every game. A good example of this was away against Man United when he was mowed down recklessly several times, but always got up unaffected. Maybe this is because he doesn’t stop running. The stamina on Guendouzi is one of the most impressive attributes in his locker and vital in such a high-pressing system Emery deploys, or when Arsenal play three centre-backs leaving the midfield somewhat open.

Great addition to the dressing room

Guendouzi is a bit weird (follow his social media for hilarity), but his sense of humour and personality of not shying away on or off the pitch, especially in the proximity of Lacazette and Aubameyang, seemingly tucks him into the ranks of the Arsenal hierarchy without friction.

Guendouzi after beating Spurs 4-2 in December:

Personally, I’m constantly reminded of Kip, the tragic character from South Park:

“Thanks Rwanda”

But the story behind the recruitment of this joyfully impressive young talent is bittersweet.

The teenager came from the French second division team Lorient for approximately £8m last summer, about two months after Arsenal had signed a new sleeve sponsorship with none other than the country Rwanda, the “Visit Rwanda” deal, for £10m-a-year for three seasons.

Considering Arsenal’s tight transfer budget through the “self-sustaining” model, making sponsorship deals like this one becomes an important solution to facilitate moves for exciting young players like Guendouzi.

For that, “Thanks Rwanda”.

But more depressingly, this smells like a Mislintat discovery. Seeing the German is on his way out the door, finding gems like this will become even more difficult in the future. Guendouzi’s value has, according to the CIES Football Observatory, increased the sixth most from fee-purchased players in the top five leagues in Europe since the summer, inflating from EUR 9m to 43m (+34m). (Torreira is #2, EUR 30m to 74m – +44.3m).

Thank you too, Sven.

Although he isn’t perfect positionally and considering goal contributions, especially, Guendouzi has been a shimmer of hope in a pretty dark place for Arsenal fans for much of this season. His age, current abilities and immense potential is always reassuring. A partnership between him and Torreira (22) in midfield could be what Emery should build his team around.

Here is a good compilation video of the man:

Thank YOU, too.

Twitter: AFCAndersen

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