After a solid season in the Bundesliga with Hertha BSC, Matteo Guendouzi looks set to return to Arsenal, after fracturing his metatarsal on Friday. Hertha sporting director Arne Friedrich confirmed Guendouzi’s departure following their 3-0 win over SC Freiburg, and the club will certainly miss his influence in central midfield for the remainder of the season.
Guendouzi was a highly influential character at the heart of the Hertha midfield, excellent in possession and oozing class when running with the ball. Making twenty-four appearances in the league, the Frenchman provided a line-breaking ability that his team otherwise lacked. If Friday truly is to be last game for Hertha, he will be dearly missed and the team will need to identify a suitable replacement. But despite a solid season in Berlin, as the 22-year-old now returns to Arsenal, a question remains – is Guendouzi the right fit for Arteta?
The answer should be an obvious one. Guendouzi is an excellent progressor of the ball and can provide not only line-breaking on a dribble, but defensive solidity in behind talented attackers. His scanning of the field is adept, constantly adopting the right positions in both build-up phases and defensive transitions. Demonstrating one natural fit right off the bat, he often drifts over to the left-half-space when Hertha play out from the back, just as Granit Xhaka does for Arsenal.
Anyone who’s watched Guendouzi will know that you just can’t help but be drawn to his long-flowing hair and eccentric personality as he glides about the pitch. He has the ability to mix the best qualities of Dani Ceballos and Thomas Partey together, without being quite as good as either. And that is most likely the problem for Arteta. It’s not as though he’s not an Arteta player, but more likely that the former City assistant coach simply doesn’t have enough trust in the Frenchman to play week in and week out for a team with the supposed stature of Arsenal. While he would likely do very well at a club like Crystal Palace or Rangers, Arsenal might be too high for his ceiling at the moment. But his past performances for the Gunners don’t really show any indication of that. The Frenchman had a great spell under Unai Emery, and already has 57 Premier League appearances to his name between his two seasons. At twenty-two years-old, there’s no reason to think that Guendouzi couldn’t grow into the player that Arteta wants him to be. While still young and occasionally rash, he would be an excellent addition to the team and provide something that is a rare commodity in the modern game – a central midfielder who can dribble for great lengths of time.
With the team crumbling and capitulating to tenth place in the table, Mikel Arteta should welcome Matteo Guendouzi back with open arms and give him more time to develop on the pitch. He’s no good soaking up the sun sitting on the bench, and if that’s how Arteta wants him, the Gunners would be wise to send him back to the Bundesliga for another season, maybe even back to Hertha Berlin.