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3 reasons Matteo Guendouzi should start

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on September 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Matteo Guendouzi has slipped out of Mikel Arteta’s starting XI in recent matches. But here are three reasons why the hair-raising Frenchman should be rampaging around the Emirates and not sat on the bench.

Under Unai Emery, Matteo Guendouzi was establishing himself as one of the key players in the Arsenal squad. In fact, during the opening weeks of the season, he produced several outrageous performances and catapulted himself into the top two or three performers in the entire team. However, from the moment Mikel Arteta arrived, his opportunities have significantly reduced. He has made only two Premier League starts under Arteta after starting the first 14 matches of the year.

Despite his recent resignation to the bench, however, there are many who still believe that Guendouzi should be starting. Here are three reasons why.

Arsenal, Granit Xhaka

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 26: Granit Xhaka of Arsenal controls the ball during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal FC at Vitality Stadium on December 26, 2019 in Bournemouth, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

3. He does not need to be protected

Granit Xhaka has performed superbly since Mikel Arteta took over. Playing in a left-sided central midfield position that allows the left-back to fly up the flank into advanced positions without worrying about leaving too much space in defensive areas, the Swiss international has flourished. However, while this new role suits him wonderfully, it both opens up space in central areas and is there to protect him.

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Xhaka is poor when pressed. He is also very left-footed. His best attribute is his passing, especially the longer-range raking passes. By moving him deeper and to the left side of the pitch, Arteta minimises the exploitation of his weaknesses and accentuates his strengths. It is very clever coaching, and Xhaka has performed well as a result. But it leaves the right-sided midfielder in a bind: they have a lot of space to cover on their own.

Ideally, Arteta would field two holding midfielders in a more orthodox midfield position, thus offering more passing lanes to play between and better structure and cover against the counter-attack. But moving Xhaka into central midfield would again expose his greatest vulnerabilities, namely his lack of speed and quickness, over-dependence on his left foot, and his struggles when pressed. Guendouzi, on the other hand, does not need to be protected. He can perform all of the duties that Xhaka can without the vices. And that would free up Arteta to use other positions in the team more freely.

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