Matteo Guendouzi looks set for the Arsenal exit door in a deal that will see Marseille take him on a season-long loan before committing to buy him next year.
On the face of it, it’s an ignominious end for a talented youngster who might have made himself into a permanent first-team fixture in the red half of north London.
However, in reality, it’s probably a good deal for all parties and a chance for everyone to move on with a fresh slate. A break-even deal for the club, a chance to rebuild for the player.
I think it’s true to say that Matteo’s vigour and exuberance were qualities that propelled him to where he is and we shouldn’t for a moment underestimate how talented you have to be to make it to the first team of a Premier League football club, and even more so as a 19-year-old.
The Frenchman was combative, bombastic, and seldom shied away from doing the hard yards on the pitch. Brought into the team by Unai Emery, Matteo fit the mould of the modern Premier League footballer; technically sound with a big engine. He made more than 40 appearances in his first season at the club and added another 20 in his second before things went rapidly south.
And while it is true that Matteo’s exuberance has made him a success, it could also prove his downfall and, indeed, very much did so at Arsenal.
Even setting aside the incident(s) which saw his relationship sour with Mikel Arteta, the 22-year-old’s disciplinary record on the pitch is perhaps demonstrative of someone who struggles to keep his impulsiveness in check. According to WhoScored, he collected 17 yellow cards across two seasons at Arsenal and a further five in his loan season at Hertha Berlin last year.
And then, of course, there are the incident(s) which scuppered his future at the club. These were not simple misfortunes or coincidences, these were incidents that were entirely self-inflicted, whether it was grabbing an opponent by the throat, goading opponents over wages, acting up behind the scenes, or refusing to apologise for anything to anyone.
While it seems that Emery was content to manage the Frenchman in a different way, tolerating his excesses, Arteta resolved to have none of it. The Spaniard drew a line, Matteo crossed it and refused to go back. Fair enough.
If you are going to take on a manager, you had better be damn sure you are indispensable to the club, entirely beyond reproach, and have the overwhelming backing of the fanbase. Matteo had none of these and made the decision to exile him simple for the manager.
His actions since then suggest nothing has been learned and no wounds have healed. The relationship is irrecoverable and, in the short-term at least, Matteo has no intention of changing who he is. As I said previously, that character has brought him a long way in football so, to an extent, I get it. Why change a winning formula?
From an Arsenal perspective, it will forever be a story of ‘what might have been’ but that can and does happen with lots of players who pass through the Emirates. For now, we can say at least that the problems of dealing with Matteo will no longer be ours to offset or mitigate and the manage can focus on building around the players he sees as being on board with the project.
A disappointing end but a necessary one. Au revoir, Matteo, bonne chance!