Dani Ceballos might have been a surprise inclusion in the Arsenal midfield yesterday, but there was a surprise exclusion too as the Gunners ran out 4-0 winners over Newcastle.
There was no place at all in the match-day squad for Matteo Guendouzi, a player who has almost always been there since his arrival in the summer of 2018. When he’s fit, he’s in the team or at least the 18, so it was unusual for him not to be selected.
Ceballos rewarded Mikel Arteta with an excellent performance, and the manager spoke afterwards about how the Spaniard had forced his way into the team through his hard work on the training ground.
“He was injured and when he started to train I didn’t think he was fit enough,” the manager told the BBC.
“He completely changed his behaviour and trained like an animal.”
So, when asked about the absence of Guendouzi, he hinted at the 20 year old perhaps taking his place for granted having been almost ever-present since he joined.
“The reason is that players who, in my opinion, are training better, behaving better and are more applied to deliver on the pitch, what we want, are the players selected,” he said.
It’s not at all unusual for a young player to need a bit of a reminder that they have to train and behave in the right way. Even Nicolas Pepe has been left out as recently as our last game against Burnley, but bounced back with a goal and two assists against Newcastle on Sunday.
“We’ve said some things and we need Nico to maintain game by game,” said Arteta of the record signing.
“He knows that and it’s the way he was applying himself defensively in a few moments, he was top drawer.
“That’s what he wasn’t doing in the past and when he does that, the rewards in the other box come.”
Under Arteta the bottom line appears to be a willingness to work hard, and if you don’t, you don’t play.
It’ll be a test of Guendouzi’s character, but hopefully one he can rise to.