Against Manchester City seeing the debut of the very talented Matteo Guendouzi was probably one of the few highlights. The teenager was impressive in the pre-season, earning his starting spot and debut against the reigning champions. In this match he showed flashes of his talent but like much of the squad that was taken with quite a few mistakes and shows just how far he is from a finished product.
One of the hardest things to do is to not get excited about young players, they are blank slates with which we can project great things from based on small samples of matches with out the burden of remembering all of the mistakes that become ingrained as a player gets older. Guendouzi is perfect example of when they first start off having the ability to overlook mistakes because we so badly want him to succeed.
I am no different in this regards, watching the match live Guendouzi was someone who really impressed me. On a second watch with a more critical eye and looking at the statistics I want to take a second to try to temper my expectations a bit.
Looking at the stats from twelve.football (a very cool website for some innovative statistics), he ranked as Arsenal’s seventh best player. They look at every action that happens on the pitch during a match and assigns a point value for each action. More information can be found here looking at how to use the data, the basic point is that 1,000 points is equal to one goal.
He racked up the sixth highest defensive actions score, the sixth highest attack score, fourth highest off ball score and the fourteenth highest shots score.
From this it shows a player that did well, especially considering that he was making his debut against a tough opponent but maybe not as well as the narrative that surrounds him might suggest. His opening to the game was a bit shaky; he was the one most at fault for the first goal where he miss timed his challenge and then couldn’t recover in time to put pressure on the shot. After that opening period he really seemed to settle into the match.
Looking at my stat for offense value added really helps to illustrate this. Breaking the match down into 15 minute chunks
0 to 15: -0.13
16 to 30: -0.03
31 to 45: -0.02
46 to 60: 0.01
61 to 75: 0.03
76 to 90: 0.09
Overall he was still negative (Arsenal as a team only produced 0.47 offense value added, which is a sort of non-shot xG when you look at it this way) but I think that there were encouraging signs that he settled in and continued to play his game even when things didn’t go his way in the beginning of the match.
For the match he led Arsenal in passes attempted and completed and like his offense value added (unsurprisingly) his passing numbers did improve as the match went on. In the first half he misplayed eight of his 23 attempts and in the second half just one of his 24 attempts was inaccurate.
The one area that was concerning was his passing in the defensive third, where he misplayed four passes (all in the first half). These are the most dangerous passes to have not come off, some of this were his teammates putting him under unneeded pressure (looking at you Sokratis and Xhaka) but in this Emery system a lot will be asked of the holding midfielders to be able to take possession off the center backs and advance the ball. This is another area that as the match continued he got better at and I hope that improvement continues the more he plays.
On defense, he did a good job of being everywhere harassing Manchester City. He was tied for second in the number of successful tackles with four, of the six challenges that he attempted. The only real blot on his day were the missed challenge on Raheem Sterling for the first goal and a misplayed long ball that allowed Sergio Aguero a one on one oppurtinuty. He was also second on Arsenal for interceptions with four. Overall he was fourth in total defensive actions (tackles, interceptions, blocked shots, clearances). The positives here are all good, especially for a player that most likely will not be asked to play as the most defensive of midfielders in most matches.
The TL;DR conclusion for all of this: There were some mistakes that you would expect from a young player, overall it wasn’t a great match (in a match where no one really shined) but he did get better as the match progressed. Overall he showed flashes of his talent but it will be important to manage expectations going forward.
This post originally ran on The Short Fuse