Arsenal have been one of the most active Premier League clubs this summer and Sky Sports report they could be set to make another signing, as the Gunners enter talks with Lorient over Matteo Guendouzi. Unai Emery is not wasting any time as he attempts to turn the Gunners back into a team capable of challenging at the top of the Premier League. He has already signed Bernd Leno, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner. Meanwhile, Lucas Torreira is expected to move to the Emirates Stadium before the season begins.
The potential signing of Guendouzi won’t capture the headlines, but it shows that Emery is committed to building for the future as well as the present. This has always been a priority for Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger often entered the market to sign bright young prospects. It is important that the new manager stays true to the DNA of the club and this is an example of that.
Guendouzi may be an unknown quantity in England, but he has long been tipped for greatness in his native France. He stormed onto the scene as a 17-year-old in Ligue 1 for Lorient. Although his team were relegated during the 2016/17 season, he played eight times and impressed with his calmness on the ball. He didn’t look fazed and showed his quality on the ball with a pass success rate of 91.6%. The midfielder was certainly raw, but it was obvious that he had huge potential.
The 19-year-old operates best in a deep-lying midfield role, as his range of passing and quality on the half-turn allow him to influence games. Over the last season, he has accumulated more first-team experience in Ligue 2 and is now a more refined player as a result. His technique on the ball won’t come as a surprise due to his education as part of the PSG academy.
The France youth international is an aggressive player out of possession and is capable of breaking up play in front of the back four. During the 2016/17 Ligue 1 season, he averaged 2.9 ball recoveries per game and wasn’t intimidated by older and more physical players. Guendouzi will need time to adapt to the increased physicality of the Premier League, but there won’t be pressure on him to make an immediate impact.
For the rumoured transfer fee of just over £7 million, this deal is very much a calculated gamble by Arsenal. It is a lot of money for an unproven player, but it could quickly develop into a bargain if he is developed correctly. This summer has shown that the Gunners can no longer compete for the very best players without Champions League football. Therefore, they need to box clever in the market. The appointment of Sven Mislintat was done with that in mind.
It will be fascinating to see how Arsenal manage the development of Guendouzi. He is clearly a talent and his experience in senior football means that he can play a part in the first-team squad. The Europa League and domestic cup competitions will provide a good opportunity for him to get minutes for the Gunners. Their central midfield has been a problematic position for the team in recent years and the 19-year-old Frenchman could be the long-term solution to that.