Do you remember when everyone was out for three weeks? About how we raised our eyebrows when players disappeared into a black hole of the medical rooms for months? Yeah.
Well, three weeks is now “six to eight weeks”. AMN kicked it all off with a fractured fibula that sidelines him for “six to eight weeks”. Carl Jenkinson ensured he stayed at Arsenal by spraining his ankle and he’s out for “six to eight weeks” as well.
Whoever was giving the dot com team the medical updates got bored at this point because Sead Kolasinac won’t be returning to training until October. Which is, of course, “six to eight weeks” away. Laurent Koscielny? You guessed it. Three months before he’s back in training.
The good news is that Nacho Monreal and Danny Welbeck are in full training, ready to challenge for the left back position at Stamford Bridge at the weekend.
One man who isn’t “six to eight weeks” out is Mateo Guendouzi. He’s the subject of some interest in the back pages. The headline grabber was the claim we can win the title this season. It’s true, we can; it’s not mathematically impossible yet. That’s about “six to eight weeks” away.
He was the kind of signing Arsène Wenger would have made: young, French, Ligue 2, trouble. OK, so maybe the last one ruled him out. Apparently, he fell out with managers or coaches who didn’t fall into line with his way of thinking. A touch of the Vieira’s about him, storming off down the tunnel when he was hooked before getting sent off with less than an hour played.
There’s plenty in that incident to highlight the difference in attitude; it’s ‘attitude’ that we missed when the club was like a top people’s health farm.
Not that managing Guendouzi will be simple. A former VP at Lorient says:
“[Mateo] believes so much in himself that he is outraged with anyone who doesn’t place him on the same pedestal that he believes he should be placed on.
“He has real issues with that side of his temperament. He is not a bad kid, he’s not nasty, he’s just got an innate, deep belief in himself.”
His performance against City offered positives. Yes, he made mistakes; every young player does, but in the same way, it was a baptism of fire for the youngster. Perhaps worse; he was on the frontline, chasing the shadows, wondering when the ball would come back to him.
And then working as hard as anyone to get it back. The determination and work ethic, as well as forward-thinking with his passes, offers a lot of promise for the future. It’s nothing unusual; Lorient’s president speaks highly of Guendouzi’s approach to the game:
“We were all very impressed by how he plays with his head up. Very much in the style of what Lorient had been historically playing, our passing game.
“That is what characterises him. I know he plays in front of the defence, but he is more of an offensive midfielder than a defensive midfielder. He is always looking for the impossible pass, the pass to make the difference.”
The role for which Jack Wilshere was earmarked by Roy Hodgson for England, that neither the player nor Arsène – after a change of mind – believe he was suited to. That worked out well, trying to shoe-horn him into the XI in a more attacking role.
Patience: A Virtue in Short Supply
Guendouzi’s willingness and ability to do the hard work in winning the ball back marks him out as different; a new way of thinking in the squad, either as an individual or as part of the new collective.
The danger in eulogising him after one performance is exactly that: dangerous. Expectations in football build up quickly and disappear faster than air out of a balloon when the side is pricked with a pin. Today’s hero isn’t even good enough to be yesterday’s chip paper in the drop of a hat.
A promising start in the friendlies was built on with the game at the Emirates. How long he will be in the first team this season is open to question. Ligue 2 to 38 games in the Premier League? Even a seasoned pro would struggle with that leap. It won’t surprise me if when the Europa League starts, Guendouzi becomes the lynchpin of that midfield with Xhaka and Torreira working in tandem in the league.
Emery (apparently) is highly regarded when it comes to developing young players. Guendouzi at the moment is shaping to be his first test. Combustible, determined, and talented; is he patient when the coach says ‘rest’ or ‘dropped’? You hope he’s seen how far his travelled in a very short time and is ready to make the transition into becoming a very good player.
Hopefully, that will happen at Arsenal.