January 2007. Blackburn Rovers 0 – 2 Arsenal. It was the day a 19-year-old Cesc Fàbregas has his finest day in an Arsenal shirt.
12 minutes on the clock and Gilberto Silva was sent off following some theatrics from Robbie Savage. What followed was a one man masterclass as Fàbregas played on his own in the middle of the park, driving Arsenal to victory.
The record books will show that it was goals from Kolo Toure and Thierry Henry that won us the game, but the truth is it was the performance of the young Spaniard.
12 years later and 20-year-old Matteo Guendouzi may have had his Blackburn moment.
Down to 10-men and 1-0 down; it was Frenchman Guendouzi who stood head and shoulders above everyone else to deliver Arsenal 3 points.
Guendouzi was partially at fault for Aston Villa’s opener. He let John McGinn run off the back of him; although there was a clear lack of communication from Saed Kolasinac letting his teammate know of the danger. But after half-time he was the best player on the park.
This after a man of the match performance against Tottenham when the Gunners came back from 2-0 down.
Guendouzi drove forward into the box for the penalty that bought Arsenal level. He was then unlucky not to score himself with a low drive from the edge of the box.
Calum Chambers will get the credit for his quick reactions for Arsenal’s second equaliser, but it was Guendouzi’s beautifully flighted ball that found Chambers in space to create the goal. One of them situations where he will not be credited for an assist even though he clearly created the goal.
No player on the park had more touches of the ball than Guendouzi. No player made and completed more passes. He was Arsenal’s all action midfield hero.
Guendouzi’s problem is he does not have a partner that can get the best out of him.
Patrick Vieira had Emmanuel Petit. Cesc Fàbregas had Gilberto Silva.
Petit and Gilberto were senior pros who knew they had to sacrifice their own instincts to allow their younger teammates to flourish.
In Granit Xhaka, Guendouzi should have the perfect partner. Experienced, positionally disciplined and able to lead Guendouzi through a game. But he looks shot. Zero confidence. Doubting his own game. The Premier League becoming too quick for him.
Lucas Torreira is not positionally disciplined enough to play alongside Guendouzi. He wants to get forward to press high. Move wide. We want to free Guendouzi of as much defensive work as possible. Not have him covering a teammate who wants to play a similar role as him.
In Arsenal’s midfield it is clearly Guendouzi +1 at the moment. He is turning into our best central midfielder. A leader in the middle of the park.
Like Fàbregas against Blackburn, it is easy to forget how young Guendouzi is.