Matteo Guendouzi Mikel Arteta Arsenal GFXGetty/Goal

From Golden Boy to outcast: Why Arsenal sold Guendouzi for just £10m

Matteo Guendouzi seemed to have it all when he arrived at Arsenal.

Billed as 'one for the future' when he signed from Lorient for just £7 million ($9.7m) in the summer of 2019 at the age of just 19, it soon became clear that the midfielder was going to have a major impact in north London.

His performances during the pre-season tour to Singapore, when he starred against the likes of Atletico Madrid, belied his age and lack of experience.

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Guendouzi looked like a special talent. A player who was ready to play straight away, not one who was going to need time to settle and adjust.

There was an air of confidence about him. There was no fear, no inhibitions. The young Frenchman appeared a man in a hurry, determined to show he was good enough for a starting role.

And during that 2019-20 season, Guendouzi did exactly that.

The teenager made 48 appearances in all competitions under Unai Emery as Arsenal finished fifth in the Premier League and were beaten by Chelsea in the Europa League final – only Alex Iwobi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lucas Torreira and Alexandre Lacazette played more games.

Guendouzi was also nominated for the Golden Boy award – a prestigious award given to Europe’s best player under the age 21. It was a clear sign of the giant strides he was making.

It seemed like Arsenal had found themselves a gem. He looked destined to become the heartbeat of the midfield for years to come.

But now, just two years later, his time in north London has come to an end, with Guendouzi off to Marseille.

The France Under-21s captain will initially spend the season on loan at the Stade Velodrome, but will move to the Ligue 1 giants on a permanent basis next summer.

"I will never forget the Emirates Stadium,” Guendouzi said in a goodbye message posted on social media.

“I will never forget the fans. I won’t forget the city. I will never forget everything I’ve been through here. I will never forget that my only will was to defend with pride Arsenal colours.

"Thanks to all of those who believed in me during my time here, during the good and the bad moments. I can only wish the best to the club and its fans who deserve so much, trust me! 

“Goodbye, Arsenal, I will never forget and will be a Gooner forever."

Matteo Guendouzi Arsenal GFXGetty/Goal

In all, Arsenal will receive around £10 million ($13.8m) from Marseille for Guendouzi, a player who was valued at around the £35m ($48m) mark during his first season in north London.

It’s impossible to look at his situation and not feel his time at the club has been a wasted opportunity for everyone concerned.

For Guendouzi, it’s an opportunity missed to really make his name at one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs and for Arsenal, it’s another talented player gone at a price that feels far lower than what they could have received.

So, why has it come to this? How has Guendouzi gone from Arsenal’s golden boy, to someone who has been ushered out the back door on the cheap?

The simple fact of the matter is that there was a clash of personalities between himself and Mikel Arteta which ultimately led to his departure for a relatively small fee.

Arteta demands a lot from his players when it comes to how they behave behind the scenes. 

He repeatedly spoke about the standards he expected from his players when he arrived in December 2019 and warned that those who opt not to follow them would be shown the door.

And, in Arteta’s view, Guendouzi crossed the line twice.

On the first occasion, he was offered an olive branch. The second breach, however, signalled the end of the road.

“Mikel wants players who are going to do a job for the team and do what he asks them to do,” former Arsenal player Jerimie Aliadiare told Goal, when discussing Guendouzi’s situation last year.

“If they are not happy to do that, then he will have someone else do it for him.

“I just feel Matteo hasn’t grown up as a human being yet. He’s grown up as a player, he’s matured massively as a player. But, unfortunately, as a man, he hasn’t grown and matured as much as I thought he would by joining Arsenal.”

Matteo Guendouzi

The first time Guendouzi fell out with Arteta was during Arsenal’s winter training camp in Dubai, soon after the Spaniard's appointment.

The pair clashed during training, with Arteta unhappy at the Frenchman’s attitude towards a session, and Guendouzi was subsequently left out of the matchday squad for Arsenal’s Premier League game against Newcastle as punishment.

He was then brought back into the fold, but made just four further appearances before his clash with Neal Maupay moments after Arsenal had been beaten 2-1 at Brighton.

While Guendouzi may have escaped further punishment from the Football Association (FA) for the incident, which saw the midfielder grab Maupay round the throat and push him to the floor during a post-match scuffle, he did not avoid the wrath of Arteta.

The Arsenal boss’ anger did not stem entirely from the actual incident, but from Guendouzi’s refusal to apologise during the internal disciplinary meetings that followed in the days after the defeat at the Amex Stadium.

“Whatever internal issues we have, we will deal with them privately and I am never going to make any of that public,” Arteta said, as the fall-out from Guendouzi’s spat with Maupay continued to dominate the headlines.

At that point, Arsenal’s manager stated that the "door was always open" for Guendouzi to return, but he never did. 

That 2-1 defeat against Brighton was his last appearance in an Arsenal shirt, with the Frenchman sent out on loan to Hertha Berlin last season before his move to Marseille this summer.

Guendouzi’s potential is undeniable and he showed during his first season in north London the heights he could hit when he gets his head right.

But as talented as he is, there is still much for him to learn. Going forward, he often offers very little and his penchant for chasing after the ball can leave the defence exposed behind him.

At just 22, those are things that can be improved through coaching, but the damage that had been done to his relationship with Arteta was beyond repair. 

Ultimately, Guendouzi’s departure was the only option and with Albert Lokonga set to arrive imminently from Anderlecht, Arsenal have already decided to focus their attention on developing another young central midfielder.