Arsenal announced that Matteo Guendouzi signed from Ligue 2 side Lorient for an undisclosed fee. At age 19, and having made a total of just 30 professional appearances the French midfielder is a bit of an unknown prospect. But I have sifted through the data and I think I know why Arsenal signed him.
Guendouzi completed 70% of his long passes last season, at age 19. If you remember back to my article comparing U24 DMs (Torreira), one of the things that I look for in young players is their ability to pick out a long pass. Typically, this skill gets better with age but there are rare players - like Rodri (Atletico) - who both complete 90% of their short passes and hit above 70% in their long ball completion rates. Torreira completed 56% of his long passes, Granit Xhaka completed 66% last season and that’s supposed to be one of his specialities, and Guendouzi hit 70%.
Guendouzi could just be lumping the ball up to some Giroud-like player but, thankfully, there is a video compilation of him from last season and in it we see Guendouzi picking out amazing slide-rule (throughball) passes on the ground, clipped passes over the top, neat switches of play, and doing most of this while on the move and under pressure. This video shows a player receiving the ball, breaking pressure, and picking out long passes to teammates who are running into space, and doing that time and again.
His stats back up what we see in that video. He completes 1.1 dribbles p90, at about a 69% clip. He also draws a lot of fouls: 3.5 per90, which is an incredible number of fouls per game, but young players who are really good can sometimes be targeted by opposition players for rough treatment (Jack Wilshere).
Guendouzi does have some skills to learn. He was dispossessed 1.3 times per90 which is not great for your deep-lying midfielder. He also only made 0.9 tackles per90 out of 1.5 attempted. Though that could be because Lorient have a lot of other players making a lot of tackles and Matteo was not expected to get stuck in, or because there was nothing left to get stuck in to (Lorient had Lemione and Wadja make over 70 tackles each last season, Guendouzi made just 15).
He did his fair share of winning the ball back, however, and stepped in 1.4 times per90 to intercept the ball. That was good enough for 7th best on his team.
Matteo is also a bit callow in the air. He won just 41% of his aerial duels which is odd because he’s 185cm tall (some sources list him as 180cm).
Overall Matteo Guendouzi is an exciting young prospect from the French lower leagues. He has a lot of work to do to get up to the level of playing in the Arsenal first team on a regular basis and we shouldn’t have too many expectations of him. But I am excited to see Arsenal scout and recruit yet another young, talented, midfielder.
Finally, I want to thank SofaScore.com for hosting the data that I used in this article. The sites I normally use to mine these stats don’t post anything for Ligue 2 but SofaScore has it all! They are an amazing resource for people who like information and not just about Football, they have data for almost every sport. Even handball.