Arsenal have had a difficult start to the new season under Unai Emery as they have been beaten by Manchester City and Chelsea in their first two Premier League matches. It was always going to be a tough start to life at the Emirates Stadium for the new manager, as he attempts to establish his style of play.
One bright spark has been the emergence of Matteo Guendouzi in the middle of the park. The French teenager is very much a signing that is reminiscent of Arsene Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager. The midfielder has a lot of potential, but he is raw and needs time to develop. It has been surprising to see him start both matches, but Emery clearly has faith in him to deliver.
The most impressive aspect of Guendouzi’s game is his aggression and willingness to win the ball back. At times, he can misjudge a situation and be beaten, but he continues to be positive when Arsenal don’t have possession. That should be commended, as it is a quality that the Gunners’ midfield has been lacking for a long time. Although it is too soon to suggest the Frenchman is the answer, he certainly has the potential to develop into an excellent ball-winner.
Across the two matches, he has made eight tackles and nine interceptions. Arsenal have played against two very good footballing sides and Guendouzi has been in the centre of the action. The teenager has received criticism, but it would be unfair to expect him to dominate the midfield against two of the best teams in the country. For his age, he has competed very well.
In addition to winning the ball back with regularity, Guendouzi has only committed one foul. When the opposition and his lack of experience are taken into consideration, that is very impressive. Granit Xhaka is regularly criticised for his rashness in midfield. His teenage team-mate could prove to be a better option as the season progresses.
On the ball, Guendouzi is confident. He keeps the possession ticking over in the midfield as shown by his passing accuracy of 87.5%. The 19-year-old’s decision making will improve with experience. However, he doesn’t need to be a creative force as the Gunners already have an array of attacking talent further forward on the pitch. His role is to move the ball from defence to attack and he has managed to do that.
It is too soon to get overhyped about Guendouzi, as he is a teenager with only two Premier League games. That said, he has been impressive against two of the best teams in the division and he will have a lot of confidence to carry forward into the coming weeks.