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Mikel Arteta is Making a Man Out of Arsenal Outcast Matteo Guendouzi

The Matteo Guendouzi situation at Arsenal can resolve itself in one of three ways.

Firstly, and by far the most preferable scenario for all parties involved, is for Matteo Guendouzi to eat his well deserved slice of humble pie and come back to Arsenal ready to fulfill his massive potential.

Second up is for Guendouzi to be sold to another club where he internalizes the lessons Arteta is trying to teach him and reaches his potential in another kit.

The final outcome, which seems more likely given Guendouzi’s temperament, is that he’ll pout his way out of Arsenal, then be given a few more ‘fresh starts’ at other clubs before he flames out and people start wondering ‘whatever happened?’ to the Frenchman.

While the end cannot be certain, the one thing that is crystal clear though, is that this run-in with Mikel Arteta is trying to make a man out of Guendouzi.

Arteta is a native of San Sebastien in the Basque country, where he cut his teeth playing beach football with future Spain legend, Xabi Alonso. Considering this personal history, it’s easy to see how Arteta was licking his chops at the prospect of molding a talented young midfielder like Guendouzi into a world class professional when he was named Arsenal’s head coach.

Unfortunately for Arteta, almost immediately after he made his impassioned speech about how focus, determination and a proper attitude were the new “non-negotiables” at Arsenal, Guendouzi began straying from the path. There were reports about Matteo clowning around during filming sessions, something that couldn’t have sat well with a man as detail oriented as Arteta.

On match-day, Guendouzi’s penchant for free-ranging all over the pitch mixed like oil and water with the rigid tactical positioning Arteta demands from his central midfielders, and Matteo was dropped from the line-up in short order as a result.

Then came lockdown, where Guendouzi famously had a bust-up with Arteta and another incident where he allegedly danced shirtless at a night club while under the influence during a team retreat to Dubai. Not long after that, there was the fiasco at Brighton and Guendouzi’s poor reaction to discipline from Arteta and Edu. Those incidents, especially so early in Arteta’s tenure with the club, forced his hand. Simply put, Guendouzi left his manager no option except bringing the hammer down and exiling him.

While Guendouzi trained alone, Arteta went about the work of turning Arsenal back into a proper football club that worked hard, played hard and believed in itself. To be certain, that work is far from over, but the Frenchman had to notice when Arsenal beat Liverpool without him, then went through Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to an improbable FA Cup win. It must have been even harder for Guendouzi to watch his teammates lift a cup while he sat on the couch for no other reason than his own petulance.

As for Arteta, his tough love approach was vindicated. Players like David Luiz and Granit Xhaka, who looked out of sorts and without a future, bought in to the manager’s methods and breathed new life into their Arsenal careers. If Arteta was gloating, he certainly didn’t show it. He went to great lengths to stress that this is a new season and Guendouzi has an open door back into the team. The only question now is whether or not the 21-year-old is man enough to realize walking back through that open door is the best way to save his career.

Arsenal, Matteo Guendouzi (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

He’s been on the market for quite some time and the only nibbles have come from his former skipper, Unai Emery, who is now at Villarreal.  Aside from that, the list of “big clubs” around Europe kicking the tires on a deal for the outcast is quite thin. What’s more, regardless of he goes, he’s going to find most other managers have the same set of rules as Arteta does.

Carry yourself like a professional on and off the pitch. Focus on your job in the film room. Execute your manager’s instructions on game day. Respect your fellow professional and never forget how lucky you are to play this game for a living. It’s safe to say that wherever Guendouzi goes, the gaffer at his new club will likely demand all of these things, just like Arteta did.

What’s more, if he doesn’t meet those demands, he’ll find himself on the outside looking in just like he is at Arsenal now. That goes double for the French national team, where coach Didier Deschamps is a known disciplinarian and there is no way a guy with the unfortunate reputation Guendouzi has built for himself will fit into the picture.

This could all be academic. The die may be cast and Arsenal may have already decided to cut ties with Guendouzi, Arteta’s “clean slate” talk notwithstanding.   Whether he stays at Arsenal or not, if Guendouzi wants to get his career back on an upward trajectory,  he’s going to have to make a serious attitude adjustment. In other words, the midfielder needs to stop acting like a petulant child and start acting like a grown man who plays professional football for a living. Right now, Arteta is using tough love to teach him how to do that. Long may it continue.

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