Matteo Guendouzi says he’s desperate to repay Unai Emery’s faith after establishing himself as a first team regular despite arriving as an unknown quantity from Lorient in the summer.
Guendouzi earned praise and respect from the Spaniard for a pre-season decision to forego international duty with France under-21s and he hasn’t looked back since impressing in the clubs friendlies in the Far East.
The 19-year-old has started 25 games so far this season – second only to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – and hopes to continue going from strength to strength under the tutelage of a coach who has made a big impression on him.
“Let’s be honest, apart from the players here who follow a bit of the French leagues, no one had ever heard of me,” he told the Evening Standard when asked about his start to life in London.
“It was very important for me to show what I was capable of as early as possible. I had a chance during the pre-season tour and I took it. I showed I could be part of this team. I still didn’t expect to play so much because I know I’m at a top club with great players.
“I’m a bit surprised that everything has been going so well. I’ve played well when I’ve featured. I think I showed that I could bring something to the team.
“I am very happy with how things have gone for me at the club so far and if I can keep playing as much in the second half of the season, it would be great.”
Having benched Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey for long periods of the season, Emery has handed a lot of responsibility to Guendouzi and fellow new boy Lucas Torreira. The latter made a big impact earlier in the season, but it’s the Frenchman who has come to the fore in recent weeks. As a difficult season unfolds, the performances of both represent a big positive for the club as we try and rebuild the squad for the future.
“I owe him a lot because he has trusted me from the beginning,” said Guendouzi of Emery’s trust. “He has a lot of faith in me and it is boosting my confidence. To give so much playing time to a 19-year-old at Arsenal is rare.
“I always want to repay his faith by doing well on the pitch. I have much more to learn with him. We talk a lot, he gives me a lot of advice on my positioning, playing forward.
“I can feel how much better I am now compared to the start of the season. I know all the teams we face better. I know myself better and my game is stronger.”