Unai Emery says Matteo Guendouzi’s decision to turn down an international call soon after he signed for Arsenal played a big role in his immediate integration into the first team squad.
The 19-year-old was called up by France under-21s to take part in the Toulon Tournament, due to start five days after he arrived at London Colney, but he instead knuckled down to pre-season training in an attempt to make a good first impression in his new surroundings.
The midfielder hasn’t looked back. Having arrived as an unknown quantity from Lorient he’s gone on to make 31 appearances this season, firmly establishing himself as an important member of the first team.
Reflecting on Guendouzi’s start to life in England, Emery told the Evening Standard: “The first impression from him is very good. We saw this from the first weeks of pre-season when he arrived here and started training.
“For example, his very big decision to decide not to play with the national team in the summer because he wanted to stay and work with us to show his capacity in pre-season. He earned the possibility to take minutes in the first XI.
“His adaptation was very quick. Now his progress is very good. He is very young. We played with Lucas Torreira and Guendouzi as midfielders at Manchester City. He is a very young player, his present is very good but his ambition is to grow a lot with us and become an important Premier League player.
The boss added: “He needs to work every day with ambition, as he is doing now. Every training, every match, he shows his ambition and motivation to be an important player. It is the same for all players.
“It is a very short career and it need to use all the motivation for the best career, take a title and earn money for his family and future. He is showing us that.”
It really has been a remarkable first seven months in England for Guendouzi, who doesn’t turn 20 until April. You could argue that we’ve not seen a teenage midfielder look so immediately comfortable in the middle of the pitch since Wilshere and Fabregas burst onto the scene.
On his last day at the club, a tip of the hat to Herr Mislintat for finding such a gem.