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How the stats prove that Matteo Guendouzi can still be special

With Matteo Guendouzi sliding out of the Arsenal team, many fans have grown in criticism of his performances. But the stats prove that he can still be special.

Under Unai Emery, Matteo Guendouzi was ever-present. The Frenchman’s energetic, hair-raising style was perfect for Emery’s high-intensity, chaotic but often overawing approach. He hared around the pitch as Arsenal looked to outrun opponents. The positional ill-discipline was not as damaging and his all-action method only furthered the suffocating presence of the midfield.

However, following Emery’s departure, Guendouzi slipped out of the team, first under Freddie Ljungberg and later under Mikel Arteta. This has seen a growing number of supporters criticise his performances, questioning his propensity to wander and overall value to the central midfield. But while Guendouzi certainly needs to harness and fine-tune his skill set, the stats prove that he can still be a special player.

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Most notably, Guendouzi is a superb passer. This season, he made 6.89 progressive passes, 7.06 passes into the final third, 1.06 passes into the penalty area, and created 0.73 chances, all per 90 minutes. No player in the Arsenal squad makes more progressive passes per 90, while only Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka play more passes into the final third per 90.

Guendouzi’s 88.8% pass completion rate is bettered by only Sokratis and the best of all midfielders, while he completed 84.6% of his 15.7 long pass attempts per 90 minutes, which ranks behind only Lucas Torreira in the squad. He is a progressive, line-breaking passer who helps move the attacking play in offensive areas of the pitch. And for all the love that Xhaka receives in this area, Guendouzi more than matches him.

But Guendouz is more than just a capable passer. He is excellent at receiving the ball and protecting it. He completes more than two-thirds of his 2.32 dribble attempts per 90 minutes, matching Ceballos almost note for note, who is known as a far more capable dribbler, while he carries the ball 205.6 yards closer to the opposing goal per 90 minutes, which ranks behind only Nicolas Pepe and Ceballos. Xhaka, in comparison, carries the ball 70 progressive yards fewer per 90 minutes.

Moreover, Guendouzi is also fouled 2.54 times per 90 minutes. Only Torreira beats that figure. This shows his ability to protect the ball when pressed, and while many of these freekicks won are cheap, they help Arsenal to recycle possession and rebuild attacks. Xhaka is fouled precisely half the time as Guendouzi, which helps show his difficulties when receiving the ball under pressure.

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Guendouzi is also extremely active defensively. His 1.53 interceptions per 90 rank behind only Torreira and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, his 2.15 blocks per 90 lead all midfielders and trail only Sokratis in the entire squad, while only Ceballos, Torreira and Alexandre Lacazette produce more pressures per 90.

Of course, Guendouzi has problems. His positional wandering can be detrimental to the team, while it would be nice to see greater production in the final third — although this could be said for all of Arsenal’s midfielders. He produced 1.7 shot-creating actions per 90, 0.34 more than Xhaka, and his 0.06 expected assists per 90 are only 0.01 worse than Torreira and 0.02 superior to Xhaka.

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But while these problems prevent him from being an elite midfielder at present, they are not unsolvable. And the positive moments he produces prove just how special he can be. It is easy to forget that he turned 21 just two weeks ago. Guendouzi has some growing do, but he also has a brilliant foundation of skills. The stats prove he can be special. Arsenal, and their fans, just need to be patient.

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