Matteo Guendouzi’s rugby-style challenge prevented Wilfried Zaha from racing through on goal and potentially winning the game for Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday. The legality of the ‘tackle’ isn’t even up for discussion and you could argue the Frenchman’s actions would have been more at home on a Rugby field.
In an interview with Arsenal.com, the 20-year-old midfielder said: “I had to foul Zaha at the end, otherwise he is through on goal on his own.”
“I’m the last defender but I’m far from our goal as well. I had to do it.”
Arsenal dropped two points, but it could have been three
It’s impossible to know whether Zaha would have scored had he been allowed to race through on goal but it wasn’t a risk Guendouzi was willing to take.
Even a solitary point could prove valuable come the end of the season when the Champions League places are decided. Although it was a form of gamesmanship, which should certainly not be condoned, the youngster once again displayed an awareness and experience way beyond his years.
Guendouzi has arguably been the Gunners most impressive midfielder this season and with Granit Xhaka’s future in real doubt, there will no doubt be greater pressure on him to perform consistently and marshall what has no doubt been a problematic area for Unai Emery this season.
The Frenchman has been a mainstay in the Spaniard’s side throughout the current Premier League campaign, as he has featured in all 10 of their top-flight matches so far, achieving an average of 7.09 (per WhoScored) – a figure that places him second in the overall standings with just Nicolas Pepe higher.