Matteo Guendouzi
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium on September 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

At halftime against Aston Villa, Arsenal were a goal and a man down. 45 minutes later, they had clinched three points thanks in no small part to their midfield catalyst on the day, Matteo Guendouzi.

Matteo Guendouzi Paves Way to Victory Over Villa

An Emerging Leader?

Guendouzi has only been at the club for a little over a year, but fans can already recollect numerous occasions where the young Frenchman has been in the thick of the action.

Often this includes pulling the strings in midfield with his distribution, especially when Granit Xhaka is unavailable, but he is also ready to get in the faces of opposition players. This was the case again against Villa.

Every time he felt the referee got a call wrong, he told the official about it. Whenever an opponent went down easily, at least according to Matteo Guendouzi, he also received the ire of the midfielder.

This sort of passion and dedication can lead to some uncomfortable moments. Take Guendouzi’s 44th-minute yellow card for speaking to Jonathan Moss inappropriately.

However, that same attitude can spark one’s side to victory, which was also the case on Sunday.

Taking the Game by the Scruff of the Neck

Matteo Guendouzi never hid against Aston Villa. Although not known for his shooting prowess, the midfielder tried two shots, and both were nearly converted.

The first went whizzing above the crossbar and the second struck the post and nearly deflected in off of Tom Heaton. That’s in addition to all the good build-up play from Guendouzi.

The Frenchman finished the day with a very respectable 88% pass accuracy rate. He also made three key passes, second-most among Arsenal players, and completed 83 total passes, by far more than anyone else on the pitch.

Matteo Guendouzi additionally contributed with nine accurate long balls, joint-most with David Luiz. Finally, he won the penalty which levelled the scores with an astute run into the box, something he is not known for.

The midfielder never hid and could be seen on the ball almost incessantly in that second half with his side chasing the game. While he is still a young man, just 20 years old, Guendouzi is slowly turning into a leader at Arsenal.

Shouldn’t Have Been so Hard

With all that said, Matteo Guendouzi was one of the few Arsenal players who really didn’t put a foot wrong. Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Calum Chambers were all decent enough, but the rest of the team was flat.

This is especially true with the defence. Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are proving time and again that, despite their experience, they can be gotten past regularly.

Meanwhile, Ainsley Maitland-Niles is not a defensive player by trade and was exposed against Villa, leading to his two yellows. Sead Kolasinac is also not known as a defensive stalwart, getting much better results as a wing-back than full-back.

No wonder then that in almost every match the Gunners gifts at least one goal to their opponents. Aston Villa’s first goal was a case of no one marking the man making a run into the box, which is considered shambolic at the Premier League level.

Then, the team switched off after Pepe’s penalty, allowing the visitors to retake the lead. Simply put, that defending is not good enough to get a club into the top four, at least not in the modern Premier League.

What’s Next

Arsenal will await news from the medical staff about Maitland-Niles’ availability. He had to be helped off the pitch when sent off by referee Jonathan Moss. This may throw a spanner in the gears for the Gunners, who have yet to welcome back Hector Bellerin.

For the short-term, the focus will be on Tuesday night and the League Cup. Former Gunner Carl Jenkinson and Nottingham Forest will make their way to the Emirates to try and repeat their January 2018 exploits in the FA Cup, where they eliminated Arsenal.

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