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03 Aug 2018

Arsenal: Why Matteo Guendouzi needs to start the season

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 Brimming with confidence

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Vertical and direct

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A brave decision

Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Reputations aren't made on one performance, but there's reason to be excited about Matteo Guendouzi after his starring role against Chelsea in the International Champions Cup. 

Unai Emery selected a strong lineup at the Aviva Stadium, with Guendouzi slotting in alongside Mohamed Elneny and Emile Smith-Rowe. With the Egyptian sitting deep, the two youngsters were asked to prompt proceedings further forward.

Brimming with confidence

After his heroics against Atletico Madrid, Smith-Rowe had a quieter evening in Dublin, subbed off early in the second half. Guendouzi, however, put in a performance that reeked of confidence and capability. 

Time and time again, he dropped alongside centre backs Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi, ignoring the constant pressure from Pedro and Alvaro Morata to turn and conduct from outside his own box. 

This writer was in the stands on Wednesday, and not once did he notice the Frenchman conceding possession throughout the entire ninety minutes. Not once did he look out of place, joking with Mesut Ozil in the warm-up as though he were a regular in the first team.

Vertical and direct

There is a refreshing verticality about Guendouzi's play, something that often seemed to surprise his more conservative teammates.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ozil, in particular, appreciated the directness of his play, receiving quick balls into the spaces between Chelsea's midfield and defence before embarking on dangerous runs. Pace, directness and intent; they've all been lacking from Arsenal's play in recent years, and Guendouzi delivered all three. 

Pre-season is obviously different. Crowds are less partisan, the stakes are non-existent, and Guendouzi is by no means the finished article. He could do with adding some muscle, as a more lenient referee would have waved away the free-kicks awarded to him by the Irish officials whenever he was pushed off the ball.

A brave decision

There was enough in his performance, however, to support the assertion that Guendouzi should start the campaign. With Lucas Torreira in the early stages of a return from the World Cup, a berth is available.

Nobody has performed better than the Frenchman, with one fan on Twitter even joking that "Guendouzi has increased his price by £20 million in two friendlies". 

Starting Guendouzi against Manchester City would be incredibly brave. In doing so, however, Emery would be making a massive statement of confidence in his youngster's ability. More simply, it would help his team to play better, quickly and more aggressively. Given that Pep Guardiola's side are heavy favourites anyway, what is there to lose? 

Even if Guendouzi doesn't start, Arsenal fans needn't worry. They looked to have snared a player of real quality, and it will he beautiful to watch him develop in the coming season.