Is Matteo Guendouzi ready to lead Arsenal’s midfield?

Matteo Guendouzi is becoming integral to Unai Emery’s system and the Frenchman has all the ingredients to become Arsenal’s main man in midfield.

Five weeks ago when the Premier League season kick-started, the curiosity remained over how Unai Emery might shape his midfield. Granit Xhaka, amid talks of becoming Arsenal’s permanent captain, looked like a sure starter. Then there is Dani Ceballos, who has been touted to play a significant role this season; and then, finally comes Matteo Guendouzi.

Joe Willock, like Guendouzi last term, was a surprise starter in the first three games of the season, before being dropped to the bench for the North London Derby. Emery’s trust in Willock could be an indication of drastic changes to the midfield. Could that lead to less game time for one of the regular midfielders from last season or even an axing?

Xhaka or Lucas Torreira could be that player. However, it is unlikely to be Guendouzi, for the Frenchman has become integral to Emery’s system at Arsenal. He certainly suits the way the manager wants his team to play. Going by the form he showed in the second half of the North London Derby, he just seems undroppable.

Now it is imperative that Emery uses the right way and shapes the midfield around Guendouzi for the betterment of Arsenal’s chances this season. But, there could be some hurdles in the way, namely Xhaka. It would be interesting to see what Emery does to his midfield, especially how he manages Guendouzi, with the Frenchman looking crucial to Arsenal’s season.

Guendouzi over Xhaka?

Is the Xhaka bubble about to burst at Arsenal? (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Is the Xhaka bubble about to burst at Arsenal? (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Shkodran Mustafi’s glaring errors have cost Arsenal points. Xhaka managed to cover his tracks under the German’s shadow. But, things are different this season. The Swiss midfielder, when tasked with significant responsibilities, has failed at executing them.

After a miserable North London Derby, Emery’s plans for Xhaka will be looked at with more curiosity. He could be making a big mistake by affording the out-of-sorts Xhaka time in the side. After a dreadful start to the season, Emery should swiftly move on from Xhaka and shape a new midfield setup.

In turn, Emery could put more faith in Guendouzi and shape his midfield around the Frenchman to bring about change in the middle of the park. Xhaka’s downfall could become Guendouzi’s chance to shine. Emery should certainly move over Xhaka and look to build around Guendouzi alongside Ceballos, Torreira and Willock, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles also an option.

Guendouzi: The best since Cazorla?

Santi Cazorla was a big influence for Arsenal during his time at the Emirates. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Santi Cazorla was a big influence for Arsenal during his time at the Emirates. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Ceballos was compared to the expressive Santi Cazorla to varying degrees, especially after his man of the match performance against Burnley at the Emirates. Those comparisons were purely based on Ceballos’s likeness to Cazorla with respect to ball control and the flair he brings to the midfield.

What most fans fail to notice is that Cazorla’s game was based on dictating the tempo of the game. The now Villareal playmaker was hailed for his displays as a central midfielder in his later years at Arsenal. Guendouzi’s display in the North London Derby has had a similar effect, which is by far the first time he put in a performance of such significance.

The modern-day midfielder is expected to lead presses, make forward play and boss the entire zone. Guendouzi looked like such a midfielder a fortnight ago. Two-and-a-half years later, Arsenal may have found Cazorla’s heir to that midfield unit.

‘Dynamism and Energy’

Guendouzi was called up to the France squad for the latest round of fixtures. (Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images)
Guendouzi was called up to the France squad for the latest round of international fixtures. (Photo by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images)

When Paul Pogba pulled out of the French squad for the first international break of the season, Didier Deschamps did not hesitate to call Guendouzi to replace him. Incidentally, for Arsenal fans, it did not come as a surprise despite his selection being against the odds.

Deschamps was quick to suggest that Guendouzi was in the squad merely to bring ‘Dynamism and Energy,’ for the age, he is at. Emery, however, would have seen plenty in the first four games of the season to point that Guendouzi is more than someone who merely brings dynamism and energy to his team.

The way the Frenchman has conducted himself this season has made him the leader of the Arsenal midfield. Emery should be happy Guendouzi did not play for France during the international break and welcome him in a sharp state.

Unlike Deschamps, Emery pointed out that Guendouzi gives his side the ‘control’ it needs. As the Frenchman’s stature grows, the likes of Ceballos and Torreira have to play their A-game. In such a scenario, Guendouzi would thrive, and if he is to perform as he did against Spurs, he could surely become the big leader Arsenal crave in central midfield.

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