Against Everton, a number of Arsenal players looked lost and confused when on the ball as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat against the Toffees.
However, one man in midfield looked more useless on the ball than most; Matteo Guendouzi.
The 19-year-old prospect started his debut campaign in England fairly well, drawing rave reviews from many corners for his fearless, composed performances in the middle of the park.
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However, in recent weeks, the Frenchman has looked lost when on the ball, and has started to become somewhat of a boring, sideways-passer of a midfielder who hasn’t shown near as much positivity on the ball as he did earlier in the campaign.
A common denominator of his decline in form? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s spell out of the starting eleven.
The Gabon international has started on the bench for three of the Gunners’ last four league games, as Unai Emery has opted to play Alexandre Lacazette as a lone striker.
Whilst Lacazette is an excellent player, he doesn’t possess near as much pace and willingness to run the channels as Aubameyang does, and that is a vital feature in helping the midfield pick their head up and find a forward pass.
At Goodison Park, Guendouzi saw plenty of the ball, but everytime he found himself on it, the movement up top was non-existent and basically static. The teenager would be dallying on the ball, arms outstretched complaining about a lack of options, before feeling Idrissa Gueye and Andre Gomes – who were excellent – breathing down his neck.
When you’re being pressured in the midfield, you need that quick outlet to pass to in order to relieve the pressure and get your team up the pitch – against Everton, there was none, hence the reason why the Toffees’ attacks were relentless.
The fact that Emery hasn’t noticed this yet is beginning to make Guendouzi look like a poor player, which he simply isn’t – the fans’ reactions to his performance weren’t encouraging to say the least, and it would be a travesty for them to turn on him.
Something needs to give, or Guendouzi’s blossoming reputation could be at risk.