At the same time as the Arsenal players under Arteta were lifting their 14th FA Cup trophy, Matteo Guendouzi was posting pictures on his social media of himself in a sun-drenched villa. The 21-year-old had obviously been told that he wasn’t expected to make his way to Wembley for the final so instead, he hopped on a plane and began his holidays early.
In fact, there’s no acknowledgement anywhere on his social media of the Gunners’ Wembley triumph, a sure sign these days that the relationship between club and player is irreparable, but could it have been different?
If we were to look back on the final straw in the Guendouzi saga and what happened during a fixture with Brighton, we can get quite an accurate feeling of the type of manager Mikel Arteta is. Guendouzi, after a bust-up with Brighton forward Neal Maupay, taunted the Brighton players about the wages they earned and said he would always earn more. Once word got back to Arteta of Guendouzi ‘s ill-advised tirade, he was hauled into a meeting on Monday morning with the manager and asked to explain himself.
Guendouzi has fallen out of favour in recent times, but what should Arsenal do with the talented youngster? ? pic.twitter.com/ot3jGVte9N
— 90min (@90min_Football) August 2, 2020
What emerged was a defiant Guendouzi who showed no contrition whatsoever and naturally, Arteta took exception to it and froze him out the side. The game against Brighton on June 20th was the last time he played for Arsenal and may well be the final time he represents the club after signing from Lorient in July 2018. Now, Arsenal have been crying out for a disciplinarian in the dugout for years and now that they have one in Arteta, it seems unfair to crucify him for being decisive about what type of personalities he wants around the Emirates.
But there are a few mitigating factors that perhaps could have suggested that the Frenchman be given a bit of leeway. For starters, Neal Maupay is a divisive individual on the field. Guendouzi wasn’t the first and won’t be the last player to almost come to blows with Maupay and history will eventually show the Brighton striker to be the more antagonistic out of the two.
Young footballers can often come across as brash in the heat of the moment and yes, Guendouzi’s lack of remorse 48 hours later could be taken as concerning, but to throw him over the coals for that particular incident seems particularly unforgiving.
"That's what happens when you talk too much on the pitch" ?
Neal Maupay's message for Matteo Guendouzi yesterday… pic.twitter.com/Bt6wXESowW
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 21, 2020
As mentioned, Arteta ’s dealings with Guendouzi does suggest that this no-nonsense approach will now be the Arsenal way. It has already paid dividends as the Gunners won their first trophy since 2017 but there is a long way to go when you consider that the North London side is at 50/1 to win the 2020/2021 Premier League in football betting, which is undoubtedly what the fans want the most.
A player like Guendouzi is young and talented enough to have helped with that mission but it seems he is set to take flight from the Emirates after a turbulent few minutes in June against the Seagulls.
One could say that the art of effective management is knowing when to put your arm around a player or knowing when to cut your losses. Arteta has decided on the latter and time will tell if that was a good idea, especially with the likes of Barcelona and Juventus sending admiring glances at the 21-year-old.