Is there a way back for Matteo Guendouzi?
Michael Regan/Getty Images

One of the biggest questions surrounding this summer's transfer window was the fate of Arsenal's Matteo Guendouzi. 

The French U21 international was linked with Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Barcelona. 

Even former Gunners manager Unai Emery wanted to bring him to Villareal CF with Arsenal setting a £40million price tag on the midfielder.

A key player under Emery

Gendouzi had 33 appearances in the Premier League, starting in 23 of them in the 2018/19 season. Despite his young age, Guendouzi quickly earned a reputation for being a tough, physical midfielder who did not back off from any fight, a type of player that was missing from the Arsenal midfield ever since Patrick Vieira's departure.

In the first weeks of the 2019/20 season, there was no slowing down for Guendouzi. He was the driving force in the midfield for the Gunners and had a crucial part in their comebacks against Tottenham and Aston Villa.

His key role could be seen in the numbers as well, at the end of September he ranked first in successful passes, joint-top for interceptions, joint-second for tackles won, and third for key passes in the Arsenal squad.

The Downfall

With the departure of Emery and the arrival of Mikel Arteta to take over from interim head coach Fredrik Ljungberg, a new philosophy came as well.

David Ornstein reported that this new 'hardline, non-negotiable stance' did not seem to sit well with the Frenchman, while it was all around 'welcomed by players and staff'.

The first truly worrying signs came right after their Dubai training camp in February, when Gendouzi got dropped from the squad against Newcastle, and it was later suggested by Arteta that he was not satisfied with the youngster's work ethic.

The Telegraph later reported that Guendouzi had a 'heated row with Mikel Arteta and members of his coaching staff during the club’s winter training camp in Dubai'.

Gendouzi worked his way back to the squad as Arteta expected him to do so but according to The Sun not much later he had another conflict with teammate David Luiz when the Brazilian asked him to 'sort his attitude out, grow up and act more professionally'.

But apparently, the advice fell to deaf ears as the Frenchman caused quite a scene at the Amex stadium grabbing Brighton's Neal Maupay by the throat and reportedly bragging about his wages during the game.

After the incident, Arteta gave the youngster several opportunities to apologize, which Gendouzi refused to do so and the youngster was forced to train alone with a fitness trainer.

There is always a way back

Arteta was never secretive about his mentality as a manager. If you 'jump the boat' you can always have a place in the squad, otherwise, you are free to go.

Arsenal's midfield is probably their weakest link heading into the 2020/21 season and Guendouzi has the potential and talent to lift the unit to the next level under Arteta's leadership but his mentality needs to be changed.

According to Goal Arteta is open to reinstating the Frenchman and offers Granit Xhaka as an example to be followed.

'He's a really good example for any player that is in a difficult moment that if you are willing, consistent, and really want to do it generally, I think there's always a way back.'

Meanwhile, Guendouzi impressed the critics with his two performances as the captain of France's U21 squad against Georgia and Azerbaijan in the Euro qualifier. He was all over the field and while he did not get official assists, he played a key role in the build-up for the opening goals in both games. 

Guendouzi is still only 21 years old and he undoubtedly has the qualities, he has to adapt and accept that under Arteta there are no exceptions and talent will only get you so far.

VAVEL Logo