September 1st, 2019.
Arsenal find themselves 2-0 down at home to Tottenham in the 40th minute. Six points from the first three matches was a solid enough start considering one of those was away at Anfield, but defeat on home turf so early into the campaign – against them – would have been a crushing mental blow.
The score would finish 2-2, with Matteo Guendouzi the standout fixture across all 22 players. With a drive, passion and determination that had been missed throughout the entirety of last season and beyond, he was utterly paramount in fighting back to claim a point.
Demonstrating character, progression with the ball and boundless energy, his seven ball recoveries were a match high. He was quite simply outstanding.
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Almost a year to the day, he’s being shunted off to Hertha Berlin, who currently sit 13th in the Bundesliga table.
I had real belief in the Frenchman blossoming into a dynamic midfielder. Really, dynamic. He was not a creative linchpin, but he could drive forward with the ball at his feet, looked for the positive pass first and foremost, while also having a bite to the way he played. Sadly, it was the latter of those traits which ultimately proved to be his downfall.
A temper that trickled over into off-field disruption and training ground bickering got him into a world of trouble, to the point where his attitude was so poor he was ostracised from the first team entirely.
Guendouzi’s form had dipped too, but so did the rest of the team.
He’s not the absolute most culpable person for the failings of the last two seasons. The difference is in the reaction. It was rubber stamped by Mikel Arteta from the very first words he said as an Arsenal manager that a change of culture and commitment are the first traits he’ll demand.
Those who – to quote an overused, but iconic, phrase – “play for the name on the front of the shirt” are the only ones he wants on board. Nothing but unwavering dedication to the cause with absolute belief in the forthcoming journey to realise those goals. Look at Mohamed Elneny, as an example.
The 21-year-old, however, didn’t abide.
Everything around this deal can only be considered a failure. Now gone to Hertha Berlin on a season-long loan, one with no option or obligation to buy, or even a loan fee, he will return to north London with just 12 months left on his deal. Granted, he only cost £7m, but we won’t get much more next summer.
Early murmurings of Arsenal wanting £30m+ this window were flushed down the toilet rapidly. Nobody was willing to take the risk on a player whose petulance only ceased to slap him back in his own face. Attempts to use the midfielder as a bargaining tool were just hopeful shots in the dark as opposed to legitimate business propositions.
And here we are, with him joining a club he had initially turned down two months ago as he waited for other options. Who is to blame? Guendouzi is to blame.
I do, however, wish him all the best. At the end of the day he is still an Arsenal player, so I hope he heads over to Germany and and tears Ryan Sessegnon a new one as he heads on loan to Hoffenheim.
Put in a season of hard work and prove yourself to be good enough to for a top club again. All the best to him.