Thursday 24 October 2019

Guendozi back in homeland having seen his stock soar

Arsenal's Matteo Guendouzi. Photo: AP
Arsenal's Matteo Guendouzi. Photo: AP

Sam Dean

A trip to north-western France represents a homecoming of sorts for Matteo Guendouzi, the Arsenal midfielder who returns to his home country with a reputation that has soared beyond all expectations this season.

When Guendouzi left Lorient for London last summer, for a fee of about £7 million (€8.2m), he was seen as an encouraging midfield prospect with plenty to prove.

The consensus was that he might play in cup competitions under Unai Emery, operating on the fringes of the first team as he adapted to a new club and a new culture.

It did not take long, though, for Guendouzi to prove he was ready for regular football.

He did so early in his Arsenal career, thriving on the club's pre-season tour and bursting into the first team at the start of the Premier League season.

He has stayed there ever since, adapting at a startling rate to become, at just 19, one of the mainstays of Emery's new-look Arsenal.

As he arrived in Rennes for the first leg of Arsenal's round of 16 Europa League tie tonight, Guendouzi could hold his head up high.

This is his patch, in a way, with Lorient only a 90-minute drive from Rennes, and these are his people he will be hoping to impress.

There is technical ability to match those physical qualities, of course, and Arsenal will need to show composure and creativity in this first leg.

Rennes are not the most formidable opponents - they are 10th in Ligue 1 - but the Roazhon Park will make for an intimidating arena this evening.

Emery will also have to contend with a fired-up Hatem Ben Arfa, the former Newcastle United forward who will be desperate to prove one of his former managers wrong.

Ben Arfa played under Emery at Paris St-Germain for two years but fell out of favour so spectacularly that he last month launched a lawsuit against the club for not playing him.

Rennes v Arsenal, Live, BT Sport 3, 5.55

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