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From Lorient to London: The making of Mattéo Guendouzi, Arsenal’s next superstar

January 24, 2019

MATTEO Guendouzi admitted it himself a couple of weeks ago in an interview with the Arsenal matchday programme. When he joined the club last summer, pretty much no one knew who he was! “Let’s be honest, apart from the players here who follow a bit of the French leagues, no one had ever heard of me” smiled the 19-year-old Frenchman. 

However, if you follow French football and the France youth teams, for example, you would not have been able to miss him. Not just because of his fuzzy curly hair. But more because of the obvious talent Guendouzi possesses. He is a Parisian, born and bred, who was very early scouted by PSG. He joined the club in 2005 at 6 years old. At the time, he was living in Poissy, in the west suburbs of the capital, only a few kilometres away from the club’s training ground.

Technically, he was better than anyone else at youth level. He was confident and had that desire to play forward and drive the ball pretty much every time he had it. In the Paris area, you would hear people talking about him. “There is this boy in the U13 team at PSG with crazy hair…” Everyone knew who he was and that the future looked so bright for him. he played for France youth teams on a regular basis and scouts from all the top European clubs used to come and watch him play.

The thing about Matteo Guendouzi is that he knows what he wants and is not afraid of making big choices to get it. In 2014, he decided to leave Paris. He didn’t feel that under the Qatari ownership he would have a chance with the first team. Instead, he went to Lorient, a much smaller club but where he felt he could continue his progression and make it to the first team. It was the right call.

Leaving his family to go to Brittany was a big deal but it just reinforced his determination. Nothing would stop him then. He made his professional debut at 17 against Nantes in Ligue 1. At training and during matches, he impressed with his maturity and his quality on the ball. He was a raw diamond but the two seasons he spent with the Lorient first team, in Ligue 1 first and then in Ligue 2, were a big learning curve for him. It was only a matter of time before a bigger club went for him. It happened last summer. He had a lot of clubs after him, including PSG who fancied having him back. In his head, however, there was only one destination possible: Arsenal. 

 

“It was always a dream for me to play for this great club. I have always loved this club. I used to watch so many videos of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and all the others when I was younger. They were an inspiration. So for me to be here, play for this team and do well is incredible. A dream come true. I love it here. I feel that I have a special bond with the fans who have adopted me straight away. I don’t want to stop there though and be satisfied by this first half of the season. I want more. I want to improve and become better and better” he also said in the club’s programme. It was a huge decision but he was not scared to take it, once again.

At Arsenal, Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny have taken him under their wings. Guendouzi has always been very respectful of the older members of the dressing room. It was the case at Lorient and it is the same at Arsenal. Respectful and polite but also full of ambitions. “I want to play a lot of matches and win trophies here” he always says.

He never thought he would play as much this season but he feels he earned Unai Emery’s trust. He was excellent in the pre-season friendlies. He grew in confidence and was only the fourth player in the club’s history to start four Premier League matches in a row at 20 or under after Cesc Fabregas, Johan Djourou and Nicolas Anelka! 

At only 19, Matteo Guendouzi has had a fascinating impact on Arsenal’s season already. Only Lucas Torreira (by a minute), Sokratis, Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have played more than him this season in all competitions! He plays passes that no other midfielder in the squad can see. He needs to gain more experience, to get stronger as well physically but he has everything to become a very big player for the Gunners in years to come.