Matteo Guendouzi last played for Arsenal on the first weekend of the Premier League's restart. An unhappy trip to the south coast, the Gunners were roundly beaten by Brighton, with the French midfielder attracting a lot of the attention in the aftermath of the game.
Seagulls striker Neal Maupay claimed that Guendouzi had been taunting him, after the Brighton man had collided with Bernd Leno, injuring the German keeper. The youngster also appeared to grab Maupay by the throat, escaping punishment from the FA a few days later.
“Whatever internal issue we have, we deal with it privately,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta insisted. Little did he perhaps expect that this would turn into a full-blown saga.
With Guendouzi omitted from every Arsenal squad since, rumours are going into overdrive about one of the most talented youngsters in the Premier League being at odds with his manager and the staff at London Colney. Is he actually going to leave? Who to? What exactly is going on?
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Why is Matteo Guendouzi leaving Arsenal?
On the Monday after Arsenal's trip to the Amex, Matteo Guendouzi was called into his manager's office, aided by technical director and former Invincible Edu, to discuss his behaviour at Brighton. He was accused by some of the opposition of boasting about his pay packet and calling them names.
According to reports, the youngster didn't impress in that meeting. It's not the first time that he's come to blows during the Arteta regime either, having been dropped from the squad once before, following an alleged incident in which he fought with Greek centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos (rather him than us).
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In his short time in the Emirates hot-seat, Mikel Arteta has established a series of "non-negotiables" at the club - the main one being the work ethic and togetherness of every player involved. It explains the occasional absence of Ainsley Maitland-Niles - who has thoroughly impressed at right-back but has admitted his time-keeping has wayward - along with the decision to pick a hugely inexperienced side for the trip to Manchester City after lockdown.
Guendouzi, it is thought, falls short of the manager's ideals. With Arsenal weighing up how to improve an imbalanced squad in the summer transfer market on a shoestring budget, Guendouzi represents a chance to fetch a high figure for a footballer on the periphery of Arteta's plans right now.
Though the youngster has impressed - notably when the walls around Unai Emery's reign were beginning to crumble - he seems to lack either standout attributes or the calm mentality to succeed in a more structured team. Given that he was a signing from Lorient, too, there wouldn't be an outcry at the Gunners selling one of their prized Hale End academy products.
Just how has Matteo seen that pass? 🤭Magic from @MatteoGuendouzi 🧙♂️#ARSTOT pic.twitter.com/gp05YZpJWnSeptember 2, 2019
Who could sign Matteo Guendouzi?
Guendouzi is raw but barely any midfielder his age has racked up the minutes he has this season. This makes him an interesting prospect for Europe's elite - especially if they can negotiate a fair price with Arsenal's Head of Football, Raul Sanllehi.
Paris Saint-Germain have a longstanding interest in Matteo Guendouzi, for a start. He would be a homegrown player in Ligue 1, similar in style to Adrian Rabiot - who PSG lost on a free transfer to Juventus last summer - and Guendouzi himself would relish not only playing for the French champions but learning from the likes of Marco Verratti. Given the Parisian club's complicated relationship with FFP too, he is a cheaper option that Thomas Tuchel would hope to mould into a future star of the midfield.
Arsenal, however, are looking to include the midfielder in the deals they're looking to strike. The Gunners are still working on a move to bring Thomas Partey to the Emirates Stadium from Atletico Madrid, and have reportedly offered up Guendouzi and some cash. Likewise, Sanllehi's contacts have led Arsenal to pursue Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona, apparently offering Barca a straight swap for the two unwanted midfielders.
It's believed that both Atletico and Barça are very interested in Guendouzi either way, with both Spanish clubs believing that they can whip him into shape - at FourFourTwo, we'd love to see the 21-year-old try any nonsense with Diego Simeone...
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La Liga isn't the only destination that would suit the troublesome youngster, though. If the Gunners can't shift Guendouzi in a player-swap, there are plenty of Europe's top tier who could show interest. RB Leipzig have a habit of taking on talented young players and Julian Nagelsmann would probably fancy working with such an uncut gem - it wouldn't be the first time Arsenal had negotiated with him either, having sent Hale End winger Reiss Nelson on loan to Nagelsmann during his time bossing Hoffenheim.
Lyon have a superb reputation for nurturing young French talent too; they could potentially pounce for Guendouzi to bolster their midfield, and maybe Arsenal could look at taking the precocious Houssem Aouar in return. The same goes for Borussia Dortmund and Julian Brandt, and Bayer Leverkusen and Kai Havertz: could Guendouzi be used as a pawn in another deal for Raul?
AC Milan have shown plenty of interest in fellow Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira; CEO Ivan Gazidis was at Arsenal when Guendouzi was purchased under Unai Emery, and with Ismael Bennacer - another former Arsenal midfielder - potentially heading to Chelsea or United, he may want to link up with Guendouzi again. Oh, and Emery himself is in a new job at Villarreal. Santi Cazorla - yet another former Arsenal midfielder - has just left the club, and given how much faith Unai put in Matteo, he'd jump at the chance to reunite.
Don't rule out a move in the Premier League either. Arsenal aren't averse to doing business with Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool - all of whom have been on the hunt for a midfielder this summer, and all of whom have either signed or sold players to the Gunners in the last few years.
Is there any truth in the rumours?
Matteo Guendouzi's no-nonsense displays and surging ball-carrying earned him a place in Gooners' hearts - not to mention the fact that he ran half the touchline from the bench in 2018 to join in a scuffle against Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates. It'll be a shame to see him go. Especially for David Luiz, who probably borrows Guendouzi's hair products in the dressing room.
The midfielder has been apparently training in isolation since the Brighton debacle. While Mikel Arteta seemed to indicate this week that the entire squad are in the frame for a place in the FA Cup final side - even outcasts Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil - it seems unlikely that there is any way back for the Frenchman, now. He could have swallowed his pride weeks ago and apologised, had he wanted to stay.
While many will point to Arsenal losing yet another talent from the club, however, this particular saga shouldn't really been seen that way. Guendouzi was an £8m gamble; a find from former Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat in a summer transfer window of mixed results. Selling or swapping him for around £25m to 30m is good business for a club where's money's tight right now.
For Guendouzi too, this could be a huge move. He's 21-years-old and already established himself as one of the Premier League's brightest midfielders. If he could secure a move to one of Europe's elite, who knows where this talented youngster could go in his career?
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