by Tony Attwood
Finding out about players who Arsenal have signed and who are not already super starios can be difficult. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of websites with the same headline “Matteo Guendouzi: all you need to know about Arsenal’s new signing” and they don’t tell me anything like I need to know.
Like how come Lorient let him go so cheaply. And how he slipped under the radar so that we were not all being told to watch this young lad. I am not saying that watching him on TV in a pre-season game was like the moment Patrick Vieira came onto the pitch at Highbury for the first time as an unknown (before Mr Wenger had even arrived in England) and instantly took charge of the entire game. But even so, watching him on TV (as opposed to watching Vieira in the flesh which I did in the North Bank upper) it really was something.
So I’ve been trying to put the pieces together.
As we saw in the game Guendouzi is a defensive midfielder who absolutely does not hide, or settle down – he was right in there from the start. He used to play for Lorient in Ligue 2, a club with which Arsenal had many connections during the Wenger years, having initially been with PSG.
But before we see that as a connection we should note he left PSG in 2014 – two years before Mr Emery joined them, so this is not a case of our manager bringing in a youngster who he had spotted in the past.
Guendouzi made his debut for Lorient on 15 October 2016. He got nine games, and at the end of that season Lorient played ES Troyes of Ligue 2 in the promotion/relegation play off match and lost 2-1 so they were relegated after 11 years in the first division.
He then played 21 times in the 2017/18 season in the second division (not bad for an 18 year old). And I suspect the clue in terms of Lorient’s willingness to sell him is that he contract was coming to an end, and Lorient had been banking to get back to the first division at the first attempt. In short they could no longer afford to offer him the sort of salary he could probably now command, and as with so many players these days he was willing to let his contract end in order to enhance his bargaining situation.
So we bought him on 11 July 2018, amid odd comments that he was “one for the future”. The coverage on the sites I’ve looked at was pretty modest but most say the fee around was £7m which reflected this “for the futue” status.
And it is good to see this approach continuing. After all these sorts of purchases of unknown players for small fees was very much an approach of Mr Wenger.
At the time of the purchase Mr Emery said, “He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him. He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad”.
He was given, you may recall, Xhaka’s old number – 29. Xhaka has taken 34, for a reason I don’t know. Coquelin previously had that number.
Internationally Guendouzi has represented France (he was born in a suburb of Paris) although under the rules he could also have represented Morocco. Indeed Morocco approached him and he turned them down, after suitable discussions ,and offered his services to France, long term.
Here are his performance details
- 2015/16: Lorient B. National 2 (Tier 4). 6 games
- 2016/17: Lorient B. National 2 (Tier 4). 17 games
- 2016/17: Lorient. Ligue 1 (Tier 1). 8 games
- 2017/18: Lorient B. National 2 (Tier 4). 1 game
- 2017/18: Lorient. Ligue 2 (Tier 2). 18 Games
On the international stage Guendouzi has made 12 asppearances across under 18, under 19 and under 20 levels…
Of course not every one of my tips turns out as well as the “analysis” of Vieira after he had been on the pitch five minutes, and it is of course harder to judge on TV where one cannot see the whole pitch, but I was knocked out by what I could see of this young man’s drive, enthusiasm and willingness.
I am really looking forward to seeing him next season.
As to why Lorient let him go so cheaply, I can only assume that they either had no choice or there are a set of stage payments that Arsenal have offered to make subsequent upon appearances.
Either way this takes me back to the days of unknowns like Clichy turning up, and turning out to be superb players plucked from village football by Gilles Grimandi. As far as I can find out Gilles is still the chief Arsenal scout in France, and if so, it looks like he is still able to pick out players for our negotiation team to get their teeth into.