Opinion: Matteo Guendouzi can be Arsenal's wildcard this season

Opinion: Matteo Guendouzi can be Arsenal's wildcard this season

The 19-year-old French midfielder made his Premier League debut on Sunday following an impressive pre-season campaign.

Andy Preston

A summer of change both on and off the pitch for Arsenal saw them recruit five new first-team players, the youngest of which being French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi from Ligue 2 side Lorient.

The Unai Emery era officially began on Sunday against champions Manchester City, with Guendouzi being rewarded a start after an impressive pre-season. 

Despite falling victim to a 2-0 defeat against City, there were some promising signs for Arsenal, particularly in the second half, when baring in mind they were up against the Premier League’s toughest opposition.

Places up for grabs

Arriving at Arsenal for a snip at £7 million, not many Arsenal fans would have expected to have seen Guendouzi thrown into the deep end so early in the season, however, he could turn out to be a first-team regular this season.

Granit Xhaka has struggled for consistency since arriving at the Emirates in the summer of 2016 for £35 million, often being used as a scapegoat for Arsenal’s poor defensive displays last season.

A lack of mobility and defensive awareness has made for a turbulent couple of seasons for the Swiss international and Emery may opt for the energy and enthusiasm of Guendouzi over Xhaka.

Lucas Torreira was also brought in by Emery during the summer transfer window to bolster Arsenal’s midfield options and while he is likely to be deployed as a defensive midfielder, it is not yet apparent who will be his regular midfield partner in the managers preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

Torreira’s arrival could be a welcome addition and relieve Xhaka’s defensive responsibility which could see a new lease of life to his Arsenal career, while Guendouzi will be eager to show his quality to the manager and the fans.

A debut full of promise

Against arguably one of the strongest teams in world football, Guendouzi put in a display full of enthusiasm, commitment and promise.

You could have been mistaken for thinking that he was one of the more experienced players on the pitch and despite making some mistakes, he never shied away from possession, worked tirelessly for the team and was often dictating the play when Arsenal had it the ball.

Far from a perfect performance, at times the inexperienced Frenchman looked nervous and took time to grow in to the game and become accustomed with the high intensity and pace.

However, considering the strength of the opposition and the magnitude of the occasion, it was an impressive debut and it's clear that Guendouzi has a lot of potential to become a fantastic player.

Plenty of competitions to impress

Arsenal’s Europa League excursion last season allowed Arsene Wenger to experiment with several youth players and the competition may allow Emery, who won the competition three times consecutively with Sevilla, to do the same.

While Guendouzi will be keen to impress the boss in order to gain a regular starting place in the Premier League, at just nineteen he must remain patient and cup competitions could provide the perfect opportunity for the French midfielder to showcase his talent.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson, among several other young talents were given minutes in the cup competitions and adding Guendouzi to the mix will allow Emery to rotate his squad during the demanding Thursday, Sunday schedule as a result of competing in the Europa League.