Arsenal: Only one winner in Mikel Arteta vs. Matteo Guendouzi battle

Arsenal, Matteo Guendouzi (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Matteo Guendouzi (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images) /

Mikel Arteta has banished Matteo Guendouzi from first-team training with frustrations with the Arsenal youngster’s attitude. In the battle of Guendouzi vs. Arteta, there is only one winner.

Matteo Guendouzi is one of the most talented young footballers in the Premier League. Only 21, he has dominated matches against Premier League opposition. He was the cornerstone of Arsenal’s midfield under Unai Emery. He has been called up for the French national team squad, is supremely gifted in a deep-lying midfield role, and was on his way to becoming a top-five player at the position. Then his attitude got in the way.

Guendouzi arrived with a known spiky character. He was kicked off the Lorient team for three months as a result of his overly aggressive and sometimes off-putting ambition which led to a dressing-room argument with a teammate. Arsenal knew what they were getting into. But while Emery was able to harness Guendouzi’s more fiery side, Mikel Arteta, a stringent and tactically focused manager, has taken a different tack.

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Initially, there was hope that Arteta would unlock the best of Guendouzi. An unbridled and raw central midfielder working under the detailed Arteta, who was a tactically excellent midfielder himself, seems like an ideal marriage. However, while from a footballing perspective this seemed to be the perfect marriage, off the pitch, that could not have been further from the case. Guendouzi and Arteta have clashed.

Per The Athletic, Guendouzi has not trained with the first team for more than two weeks. Following the 2-1 defeat to Brighton, in which Guendouzi is said to have berated the opposing players by boasting how much he earned and placed Neal Maupay in a chokehold following full-time, the Frenchman has not been named in a matchday squad. He has had several meetings with Arteta and Technical Director, Edu Gaspar, which have not been productive, and has not apologised for his behaviour throughout.

According to France Football, David Luiz has now pleaded with Guendouzi to show more professionalism. Guendouzi disappointed Arteta with his behaviour in training, reportedly messing around during crucial coaching periods, while the bust-up between the pair during the team’s mid-season training trip to Dubai still bubbles under the surface. Guendouzi is yet to respond positively to anyone trying to reach him, including Luiz and Arteta.

It leaves a very clear battle between the most talented young player in the squad and the new manager who is desperate to stamp his authority on the team and establish greater discipline. And in this battle between player and coach, there is only one winner, and not just because Arteta holds all the power.

Of course, in any circumstance, the manager is the one who makes the decision and the player must adapt. But in this specific instance, Arteta is only more powerful because of the progress he has made in his short stint as head coach. Arsenal fully believe in his process and the team is improving as a result, without Guendouzi.

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Guendouzi might be supremely gifted and there is reason to believe that he should be the future of Arsenal’s midfield. But in this battle between manager and player, there is only one winner. And that is precisely as it should be.