Questions continue to be asked about Matteo Guendouzi’s eroding ties with Arsenal, and doubts about the midfielder’s future at the club are intensifying further as football is expected to enter the summer transfer window in a couple of weeks.
The young Frenchman has been exiled from first-team training since the Gunners’ 2-1 defeat to Brighton on June 20th, during which he was involved in a spat with Neal Maupay after the full-time whistle.
The incident is the latest of a series of controversies involving the Lorient academy graduate this season and has led many personalities to express their concerns over his disciplinary conduct.
The youngster’s actions have further been used as fodder for the relentless transfer rumour mill, which has churned out multiple stories about his potential exit from the Emirates.
With that being said, it is difficult to downplay the suggestions when all the evidence has played out in the eyes of the public.
What exactly happened at the Amex Stadium?
Arsenal travelled to the Amex Stadium with the hopes of securing their first victory since the Premier League returned from the coronavirus-enforced break.
The Gunners had suffered a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in the previous fixture and were keen to avoid a consecutive defeat in the top flight.
One of the key highlights from a goalless first half was an injury sustained by Bernd Leno.
The Arsenal goalkeeper landed awkwardly following a needless aerial challenge by Neal Maupay and had to be carried off on a stretcher with a knee injury; but not before hurling abuse at the Brighton striker and accusing him of purposely causing the injury.
Matteo Guendouzi, who was visibly angered by the challenge on his teammate, appeared to reprimand Maupay after he had tried to apologise to Leno and was lucky that the incident was not picked up by referee Martin Atkinson.
The second half saw Nicolas Pepe giving Arsenal a deserved lead but it didn’t take long for Lewis Dunk to secure an equaliser for the hosts.
Just when the game looked set to end in a draw, it was none other than Neal Maupay who rose to the occasion by scoring the winner for the Seagulls.
Matteo Guendouzi’s frustrations appeared to boil over shortly after the final whistle was blown as he was seen grabbing Maupay by the neck in a mass confrontation.
It was later reported that the Frenchman had taunted Brighton players about their salaries and Maupay appeared to confirm the same saying:
“Some of their players need to learn what is humility, especially one of them. I mean he was talking the whole game but was saying really bad things. I don’t want to say what he said because I could be in trouble. It was in French because he is French.”
“So when I scored I just needed to say, ‘listen, that is what happens when you talk too much on the pitch’. They got what they deserved.”
Matteo Guendouzi was lucky to have escaped punishment from the FA, who simply reminded both clubs of their responsibilities, especially amid the current health crisis.
However, the 21-year-old midfielder has clearly gotten on the bad books of Mikel Arteta as the Spaniard has kept him away from the first-team squad since the incident.
A track record of imprudence
Arsenal were acutely aware that they were getting a temperamental character when they signed Matteo Guendouzi from Lorient in an £8 million deal in the summer of 2018.
The north London giants, however, hoped that the young midfielder would mature and eventually fulfil his potential to become a mainstay at the Emirates.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, the Paris-born player does not appear to have changed even after spending two years with the club. It only took two Premier League starts under Mikel Arteta before he was involved in his first public spat with the new manager.
The disagreement took place after an incident during the Gunners’ winter training camp in Dubai. The pair were understood to have clashed over Matteo Guendouzi’s attitude and subsequent spat with Sokratis during a training session.
The 21-year-old midfielder was reportedly left fuming back at the hotel after Mikel Arteta sided with his senior player in the clash.
He was subsequently left out of the matchday squad for Arsenal’s next game against Newcastle United in what was believed to be a form of punishment for his behaviour.
Why this may be the last straw for Arsenal
Matteo Guendouzi is yet to feature in a game for Arsenal since the incident at the Amex Stadium and has been dropped from the matchday squads for the last six games in all competitions, including Sunday’s north London derby.
He also continues to train alone and is yet to be reinstated into the first-team squad by Mikel Arteta.
The decision to keep the 21-year-old in exile is understood to be punishment for his refusal to apologise for his behaviour, despite having been given multiple chances to make amends by both the manager and the club’s senior officials.
The Arsenal board were believed to have held a meeting with the Frenchman after the incident, during which they asked him to apologise for the incident- either formally or otherwise.
However, he blatantly refused to do so and explained that his outburst stemmed from an apparent desire to stand up for Bernd Leno.
Matteo Guendouzi was further told that the club would be reluctant to lose him this summer despite their disagreements but according to reports, he simply told them that he has no problem leaving the club.
What’s next for Matteo Guendouzi?
If the situation does not improve, Matteo Guendouzi is likely to be on his way out of Arsenal. He is already a highly marketable asset for the club; he’s a young player with top-flight experience and two years left on his current contract.
He also impressed Didier Deschamps enough to be called up to the France squad twice, with big things expected of him in the upcoming Euros.
Several top sides including Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan are reported to be closely monitoring his situation at the Emirates, with the Gunners said to be keen on a loan or a swap deal for the midfielder.
An exchange deal involving Thomas Partey is something that fans are more open to, although using a similar deal to sign a replacement for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also seems to be one of the more favoured options.
Matteo Guendouzi’s agent, Philippe Nabe, is set to have a meeting with Mikel Arteta and Arsenal’s head of football, Raul Sanllehi, sometime this week to discuss the possibility of the player changing his trajectory.
With all this in mind, it must be remembered that Arteta experienced a similar conflict with Dani Ceballos but has since rewarded him with game-time after he improved his attitude and performance.
The situation could pan out along the same lines for Matteo Guendouzi but will he accept an olive branch if Arsenal offer him one? Or would he end a promising stint at the club over such a petty issue? Only time will tell.