By Tony Attwood
On 5 October 2020, Arsenal announced that Matteo Guendouzi would be loaned out to Hertha BSC for the rest of the season, something I found incredibly disappointing. And the fact that the valuation of Guendouzi has now shot up to £29m shows that the valuation many of us had of the player at the start of this season was not out of line with his abilities.
Hertha Berlin don’t have an option to buy the player, but they speak very highly of him, just as many of us did with Matteo from the moment he first turned up in a pre-season friendly.
Apparently it was what the media call “an altercation” with Neal Maupay of Brighton that led to Guendouzi immediately being excluded from the squad and from training. And yes of course we know that such things happen and players need to be dealt with. But in a season where we have spent more of the season in the lower part of the table than reaching the celebrated top four it seems a great shame that such a talent is not in our team.
And he’s not the only Arsenal player of talent who we can’t see any more because of a falling out with the manager. A certain Mr Ozil has suffered the same fate. Likewise there are repeated reports the David Luiz is “no longer speaking to Arteta at Arsenal”.
Now we all know that footballers can be difficult characters, often not very bright, paid vast sums of money, full of their own ego, and often self-opinionated. All that is true, but so is the simple fact that it is the manager’s job to deal with that – without wrecking the team in the process just to “stamp his authority”.
Which raises the point, where would we have been with Guendouzi and Ozil available through this season? Of course no one can say, but I suspect the answer is in the top four.
Now that might seem a bit wild but just consider this.
22 November: a goalless draw with Leeds. One goal would have given us two more points.
13 December: a 0-1 home defeat to Burnley. Their first league win against us since 1974. Two goals of the type we would normally expect against them would have given us three more points. I doubt they could have coped with Guendouzi, and with him keeping Burnley tangled in knots Ozil could have had all the space he needed.
16 December: a 1-1 home draw with Southampton. OK Southampton are doing all right this season, but they actually have a worse away form than we do. One more goal and that would be another two points.
Those minor changes in those three games would have us on 30 points and thus into fourth place today – which indeed would not get us a trophy but would bring us closer to the welcome money of a run in the Champions League next season.
Of course no one can say that we would certainly have changed those games with Guendouzi and Ozil playing, but there is a fair chance of it.
And even if not, what has been gained from the fall outs with Ozil and Guendouzi. Have the team learned that “you don’t mess with the boss?” Seemingly not, because now we have the David Luiz story.
I am not saying that managers should always give in to players. Arsene Wenger clearly didn’t but he didn’t seem to have such rapid fallings out. Yes, in the end Alexis Sanchez was dropped, but that was after he repeatedly failed to follow instructions on how and where to play on the pitch and Man U weren’t able to make much of him either.
Wojciech Szczesny’s falling out with Mr Wenger was well documented – and he has since been a regular in the Juventus side. There were reportedly problems with Debuchy, and Ashley Cole, well that was just money which I rather think had more to do with the board than the manager.
Gallas had a falling out, but that was him criticising his own team mates in public, which no captain should ever do. Van Persie went even further and told the manager who he should be signing and when Mr Wenger declined, VP demanded a transfer. And as for Adebayor, well, what happened to him subsequently, especially at Tottenham made most of us happy that the we’d got the money for him when we could.
So, yes there are fallings-out, but often we can see a greedy player or one who argues that he knows better than the manager. Maybe that is the case with Guendouzi and Ozil and David Luiz. But three big bust ups in the space of just over a year, seems a little bit much.
Discipline is needed in football, but I am not sure it should be the cause of losing at least two great players in the course of one year, just so the manager can “stamp his authority on the team” as the media love to say. Especially with the games coming so thick and fast, as they say.
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