Since signing from Lorient in July 2018, Mattéo Guendouzi has been under scrutiny on an almost constant basis for reasons good, bad and now ugly. Following an on-pitch altercation with fellow Frenchman Neal Maupay at the final whistle, with the Brighton striker having scored an injury-time winner for the Seagulls, Guendouzi has been training alone, exiled from the first team.
This begs the question: do Arteta and Arsenal keep faith or is time to send him packing?
Not so long ago, the France U21 international was being heralded as one of the cornerstones of Arsenal’s midfield. Those who had been tried and tested before Guendouzi’s arrival were accused of lacking toughness and tenacity, a trademark of Arsenal midfielders in years gone by. Guendouzi impressed enormously throughout his debut campaign with a mixture of rugged determination off the ball and a composure beyond his years when in possession. He was everything the club had been crying out for since Patrick Vieira’s departure in 2005 but his attitude has let him down too often and, as a result, the incident at Brighton may be the last we see of him in an Arsenal shirt.
Since his appointment at the end of 2019, head coach Mikel Arteta has made it a priority to change the culture of the club. Learning his trade as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City, it is not surprising that one of Arteta’s key principles is his demand for professionalism of the highest standard. Consequently, he made it abundantly clear on returning to Arsenal that any player not willing to adhere to his values and vision were more than welcome to play their football elsewhere. This was a rude awakening for some players, who’s standard had dropped during Unai Emery’s disastrous final month at the helm. A notable wake-up call was given to Ainsley Maitland-Niles who, after publicly voicing his displeasure at playing as a right-back, was dropped by Arteta for the final five games before the suspension of football due to the coronavirus pandemic in March. However, since the resumption of football last month, Maitland-Niles has featured in four of the Gunners’ six matches, realising that he must conduct himself well both on and off the pitch in order to compete for a spot in the starting line-up.
Worryingly for Guendouzi, his skirmish with Maupay is the latest in a succession of indiscretions he has committed over his short career. He was reprimanded at Lorient for a row with manager Mickael Landreau that saw him cast from the first team for over three months. Earlier this season, he was given a warning by Arteta about his conduct following an incident at a team event during their winter break to Dubai.
Fast-forward to the present day and it is difficult to see a future for Guendouzi at Arsenal. Given his personal issues and the fact that if Arteta were to sanction a sale, he could leave for £40m, a significant profit on the £8m it took to bring him to north London two summers ago. Despite the current situation, Maitland-Niles’ revival serves as an example to the wavy-haired Frenchman that, should he be willing to show remorse for his previous actions and a desire to improve on and off the pitch, a place in the Arsenal squad is still up for grabs.
Zac CampbellFollow @zprcampbell99