The signing of an unheard of teenager from the second tier of French football sounds quintessentially Arsene Wenger, doesn’t it?
Emmanuel Petit, Kolo Toure, Nicolas Anelka, the list goes on. Wenger and David Dein were masterminds at spotting talent playing their football in France years before their prime.
So, it’s pretty ironic then that a French youngster is spearheading the Unai Emery revolution at the Emirates isn’t it?
At just 19 years old, Matteo Guendouzi arrived at Arsenal last summer for roughly £7m and he was an instant hit. While his debut resulted in a 2-0 loss to a ridiculously strong Manchester City, the teenager’s 72 touches was the most out of any player in red on the pitch.
He played in a way that excited the fans: wanting the ball at his feet, drawing players in and turning them with delicate dummies…and running around like a headless chicken. He delivered exactly what the Gunners had been craving since the unfortunate decline of Jack Wilshere.
To be honest, that performance alone should have gained Guendouzi a bigger, better, and longer deal with the club and if that wasn’t the case his performances up until Christmas certainly should have counted for something. Rarely do we see new signings, especially of the age of the Frenchman, put in such commanding displays both on and off the ball.
Granted, there are some negatives aspects of his game. His performances tailed off towards the end of last season, and when playing alongside Granit Xhaka the middle of the pitch can become a china shop with two bulls recklessly charging at any movement they see.
However, the signs of improvement displayed in just the first two matches of the 2019/20 season has really put into perspective the potential of Guendouzi. Playing the full 90 minutes against both Newcastle and Burnley highlights just how highly Emery rates him, and even when Lucas Torreira returns to full fitness, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that the French youngster is the player to drop to the bench.
It is clear to see that Emery is trying to build a team in his own imagine in north London. Torreira and Guendouzi have been joined by the likes of Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, and William Saliba. Signings full of potential like these make great reading for any Arsenal fan as it shows Emery is in it for the long haul; he wants to build something with the club.
Yes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz are great players, but it is the youth of the current squad that will return Arsenal to the top of the English game, and tying the most impressive performers of these young guns makes sense.
This supposed £70,000-a-week contract is a culmination of all of Arsenal’s transfer failures in recent years. Robin van Persie and Alexis Sanchez both sold at cut price fees to Manchester United is enough alone to anger any Arsenal fan. These, paired with Aaron Ramsey’s departure on a free to Juventus this summer must have initiated a policy change.
No longer will poor judgement and frugal bosses let some of the club’s best talents leave for just a fraction of what they are worth.
So, as the club continues to develop in a post-Wenger era and shift towards exciting new players and philosophies, keeping those who offer the biggest representation of change at the Emirates is one of the best things Emery can do.
He might have been a Wenger-style signing, but Guendouzi has very much become an Emery-style player.