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Matteo Guendouzi officially (sorta) signs with Marseille

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.

ESTAC Troyes v Olympique de Marseille - Ligue 1 Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

Matteo Guendouzi’s time at Arsenal is officially unofficially over. The Arsenal outcast just played his 38th match for Marseille, meeting the final requirement to activate the obligation to buy clause in his loan agreement. That’s how it was designed, mind you — it was set up with easy-to-meet terms to trigger the obligation.

It’s a bit of a bummer that the predetermined price tag is £9.3M because he’s worth more. But with his disciplinary issues and him clearly not being part of the plans in North London, you take what you can get. And it’s more than the £8M Arsenal paid for him, so the club comes out (slightly) ahead.

Guendouzi hasn’t played for Arsenal since getting into a fracas with Neal Maupay back in June 2020. He spent the rest of Project Restart training away from the team, 2020-21 on loan to Hertha Berlin, and is on loan to Marseille this season. His attitude and disciplinary issues were not a fit for Mikel Arteta’s “my way or the highway” management style.

I was holding out hope that Arteta and Guendouzi might miraculously reconcile, but the realist in me has known for more than a year that the Frenchman’s time in North London was finished. There’s a good, maybe great player in there, but by (almost) all reports, Guendouzi is, uh, difficult in the locker room. We’ve seen first hand how his exuberance, pugnacity, and petulance can cost his team on the pitch.

Putting aside the soft factors, I also have questions about Guendouzi’s skillset. He’s an elite ball-progessor and has started chipping in with goals and assists, but that’s the extent of it. He’s a defensive nightmare and a massive liability without the ball, which just is not a fit for Mikel Arteta’s system. There isn’t a place for Guendouzi’s particular brand of chaos in a tactical setup that emphasizes zonal discipline and strict spacing.

And that’s okay! Not every good player is going to fit on every team and in every system. Yeah, you’d like to have gotten more in return for Guendouzi, but more or less breaking even and ridding yourself of a headache should be good enough. Arsenal have been fine without him around, and they will be fine going forward.