Arsenal bad boy Matteo Guendouzi looks revitalised at Hertha Berlin

Bad boy Matteo Guendouzi was frozen out at Arsenal by Mikel Arteta as his former coaches in France slammed midfielder’s ‘oversized ego’… but loan move to Hertha Berlin has revitalised his game and he could even win a France call-up for Euro 2020

  • Matteo Guendouzi was loaned to Hertha Berlin after losing favour at Arsenal
  • French midfielder, 21, fell out with manager Mikel Arteta and was frozen out
  • Things reached a head when he goaded Brighton players back in late June
  • Guendouzi has been described as tricky to deal with but is thriving in Germany
  • There has been nothing but praise at Hertha for his drive and commitment 
  • He has been made France Under 21 captain and called up to the senior squad 

Hertha Berlin might not be setting the Bundesliga alight this season but they’re doing better than Arsenal are in the Premier League. A glance at the two league tables would no doubt bring a wry smile to the face of Matteo Guendouzi.

The player who became a victim of Mikel Arteta’s no nonsense policy at the Emirates Stadium, frozen out following ill-discipline last season without being offered an opportunity for redemption, is thriving again out on loan.

The fresh surroundings of Germany’s capital city appear to have been a tonic for the 21-year-old described by former coaches as ‘a pain on a daily basis’ and he already seems to have cut the cord with Arsenal.

Matteo Guendouzi is thriving on loan at Hertha Berlin after being frozen out at Arsenal

Guendouzi celebrates his eye-catching strike from the edge of the box against Gladbach

The Frenchman is clearly enjoying being in the thick of things once against during his loan

Arteta probably wouldn’t disagree with that judgement on his character but, having ruthlessly ditched Guendouzi after his spat with Brighton’s Neal Maupay back in June, he may secretly wish his under-performing team had a bit of the Frenchman’s drive and willingness to put a tackle in. 

Arsenal’s loss is Hertha’s gain at the moment with Guendouzi already gaining positive reviews in Germany amid an upturn in the team’s fortunes following a poor start to the season.

That only continues at the weekend when he scored an eye-catching goal from the edge of the box in Hertha’s 1-1 draw away to Borussia Monchengladbach. 

Strangely, his ostracisation at Arsenal has translated into a first call-up for France’s Under 21 captain into the senior squad. He replaced the Covid-stricken Paul Pogba for September’s internationals and was included again in November, though he has yet to get on the pitch.

Didier Deschamps clearly sees more in Guendouzi than Arteta ever did and a successful season in Germany may yet see him force a way into France’s talented-filled Euro 2020 squad.

Guendouzi at the centre of Hertha’s celebrations after they beat rivals Union Berlin last week

Guendouzi started life at Arsenal well under Unai Emery but Mikel Arteta lost patience

Guendouzi fell out of favour with the Spanish manager following the summer restart

In last month’s Under 21 European Championship qualifying win over Switzerland, Guendouzi was praised for winning the ball back time and time again before either dribbling forward or picking the right pass.

He rounded off his night by teeing up Randal Kolo Muani for France’s third goal, sealing a 3-1 win.

In short, it seems Guendouzi may be returning to the kind of form that he showed after first joining Unai Emery’s Arsenal in the summer of 2018, for £7million from Lorient.

Much-loved by Emery, less so by Arteta, who became tired of his stuttering form and attitude. He dropped him from Arsenal’s squad for a match against Newcastle in February in the wake of a row during a winter training camp in Dubai.

As Mesut Ozil has also discovered, getting on the wrong side of Arteta isn’t good for your chances of playing regular football.

Matters reached a head when Guendouzi taunted Brighton players about their salaries in June

He was caught on camera grabbing Neal Maupay by the throat and didn’t play another game

The final straw came at the Amex Stadium just after the Premier League restart in June. Guendouzi taunted Brighton players about their salaries during the match and grabbed Maupay by the throat in a final whistle fracas.

Maupay, who’d scored a 95th-minute winner, said Guendouzi had acted without ‘humility’ and Arteta was similarly unimpressed, exiling him from first-team training. He hasn’t played for the club since.

He still has two years remaining on his Arsenal contract but they have since bought Thomas Partey to strengthen their midfield options and a return to the fold for Guendouzi looks increasingly unlikely.

Arteta’s experience of Guendouzi seemed to echo that of the former Lorient boss Mickael Landreau, who said of the player: ‘He annoyed me terribly, he is complicated to manage.

‘He doesn’t let go, he is a fighter. He has an oversized ego, but he certainly needs it.

‘He’s a pain on a daily basis but, on the other hand, he’s talented.’

Arteta send Guendouzi to train alone for a time and he hasn’t returned to Arsenal’s squad

His loan move to Hertha at the start of October came at Per Mertesacker’s recommendation

Hertha sporting director Arne Friedrich spoke to Mertesacker over the season-long loan deal

It was Per Mertesacker, former Arsenal defender turned academy manager, who recommended to Hertha’s sporting director Arnie Friedrich that he take Guendouzi for the season.

Now all you hear is praise for this supposed bad boy. ‘He’s a fantastic player. Every day he shows in practice what a good player he is,’ Friedrich said this month.

‘He’s so calm. He wants to win every single ball, even under pressure. He has his own understanding that he wants to win games.

‘He has this intrinsic motivation to just show the world how good he is.’

Arteta and Arsenal might wonder what happened to that ‘intrinsic motivation’ when he played for them and even if may want him back eventually, it seems Guendouzi has already moved on.

‘I played over 80 games there and had a good, intense time there,’ he told German magazine Kicker about his two seasons with Arsenal.

Guendouzi already appears to have cut ties with Arsenal as he prospers with Hertha

He has been made captain of the France Under 21 side and received a first senior call-up

‘I learned a lot there in terms of sport and grew up there. It was two good years for me.

‘I also had a very good relationship with Mesut Ozil, and Bernd Leno, both of them told me a lot of good things about the Bundesliga.’

His seven appearances so far for Hertha have resulted in two wins, four draws and one defeat, to Borussia Dortmund, and Guendouzi showed his attachment to his new team by celebrating wildly in front of imaginary fans at an empty Olympiastadion when they beat local rivals Union Berlin last weekend.

In that same time period, Arsenal have lost to Aston Villa, Wolves, Tottenham and Burnley. It certainly won’t have gone unnoticed.

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