Whatever happens next year at Arsenal, it is likely to be a pivotal one for Matteo Guendouzi.
After his debut Premier League season displayed the potential that persuaded The Gunners to poach him from Ligue 2 last summer – but also the sheer rawness of his talent – now is the time for the young midfielder to come of age and cement his place in the Arsenal squad for years to come.
Circumstances may come to pass that Guendouzi is given a more prominent role in the Arsenal setup during the next campaign, with Lucas Torreira rumoured with a potential Gunners exit. Playing second-fiddle to Torreira and Granit Xhaka by the end of the season, as next in line for a midfield berth, he may well be called upon for a heightened inclusion within the starting XI in 2019/20.
Either way, in order for Arsenal to demonstrate their strength in depth, Guendouzi will have to at least maintain his current level to warrant a place in the first-team squad.
With Arsenal reportedly looking for a centre-midfielder in the transfer market, Guendouzi could find himself down the pecking order at The Emirates if his performances aren’t up to scratch – and while he is still only 20 years of age, he plays for one of the biggest clubs in the country. And the brutality of that situation is that he must show signs next year that his progress is continuing at a satisfactory rate.
Unai Emery is potentially looking down the barrel of a firing Arsenal board should results not go his way in the forthcoming campaign, so the margin for error is minimal at The Emirates next season.
By that logic, Emery will not have time to experiment with his squad. If something isn’t working, he will have to change things to get the best out of the team.
That will put pressure on the likes of Guendouzi to make good of the chances he is afforded next year – regardless of whether midfield partner Torreira departs.
Thankfully, Guendouzi doesn’t strike you as one who is fazed by pressure. Here is a kid who started last season with two straight defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea – and came out as one of Arsenal’s brightest sparks ahead of his more experienced colleagues.
With more experience now under his own belt, if Guendouzi can produce the all-too-sparing dazzling performances from last season on a consistent basis, he can nail down a place in the midfield for himself and transform Arsenal’s threat going forward.
As Torreira and Xhaka are the more defensive players within the midfield trio, if Guendouzi’s attacking qualities are utilised more regularly, he could become one of the first names on the teamsheet should the performances belie his tender years.
It may seem a big ask at this point, but we have seen otherwise ordinary players break through at Arsenal to have standout seasons in the past – take Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and the departing Aaron Ramsey for example.
And if Guendouzi can emulate his midfield predecessors at Arsenal, he can begin to forge the successful Gunners career his early promise has already begun to suggest is possible.