Matteo Guendouzi should be trusted to start at Arsenal, that’s not a question. The question is what he identifies as in the midfield.
No, this isn’t a reference to his hair. Obviously I have no problem identifying Matteo Guendouzi. What I mean is how Arsenal should be using him. It’s easy to say that we should trust Matteo Guendouzi to start. I think we should too. Unai Emery did it and it was one of the handful of things he got spot on.
In that time, we saw Matteo Guendouzi grow and mature and rise to the top of the pile of the most talented midfielders in the world. PSG wanted him, they were willing to spend top dollar on him, and others were too.
But Mikel Arteta has not been so generous with Guendouzi’s playing time. They even had a training ground bust-up and now we have to ask what the best way forward for Guendouzi is.
The problem isn’t trust. As I said, Emery’s trust was vindicated and by all accounts, Arteta’s would be too. The problem is identifying the best way to use him. Right now, this is all unclear.
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Guendouzi does a little bit of everything. He’s a tremendous ball carrier, though he takes unnecessary risks. He’s a creative thinker, but he doesn’t engineer a lot of chances. He’s a good defender, but he’s caught out of position so much that this doesn’t always come in hand. He’s tenacious and determined, but sometimes reckless and easy to pull away from his responsibilities.
As you can see, all of his pros have corresponding cons. However, I stand by what I said—he is worthy enough to start. The question isn’t if he should, it’s how he should.
Do you bench Granit Xhaka? We tried that, it didn’t work. Guendouzi wasn’t ready for that job yet. Do you trust him to play next to Xhaka? That didn’t work. Neither provides enough defensive solidity.
Do you play him further forward? We haven’t tried that, so I wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s not likely a solution as he is much more useful deeper on the pitch.
What stands out to me as the most obvious solution is to get someone like Thomas Partey, pair him with Xhaka and let Guendouzi be the third midfielder, playing a free-roaming role while knowing what he has behind him.
But then he has to be trusted as a midfield pivot. Again, not a guarantee, but he’s young and he’s shown the propensity to do so.