In lead up to this weekends FA Cup match against Sheffield United, Mikel Arteta gave a press conference on an array of topics including, Sheffield, the FA Cup, youth players, Guendouzi, and more. Read the full recap from Arsenal here.
Arsenal are at a crossroads when it comes to their future squad. With a difficult path in front of them for navigating to even the Europa League, an expensive squad on high wages, and facing a reality where the revenue stream are drying up fast in the wake of the global lockdown – they are turning looking to the youth prospects to provide for consistent performances and wins.
They aren’t alone in this reality as many clubs fear an inability to splash non-existent cash on stars, but it comes at a worse time for Arsenal. Multiple years without Champions League revenue, a tumultuous year that saw them fire Unai Emery, and a need for a large overhaul of their current squad is a daunting presence in north London.
It’s clear that Arteta wants to be the type of manager that is not afraid of handing young players the opportunity to gain experience. “I have a lot of faith in the young talent that we have at the football club, we need the right stability and the right foundations around [the young players] to make sure that they develop in the right way, at the right moment and with the right amount of pressure behind them.”
Arteta adds, “In order to do that it is a process and if you want to speed up that process you risk burning them and burning that process and we cannot do that. We have some great young players who have been playing probably more than they should have been doing but they are showing great maturity and the personalities to play in difficult moments which is great for their experience.”
It’s an attitude that Arsenal fans should be glad to have in their manager and even more glad that Arteta openly acknowledges that while youth players are fantastic they need support from other players that are more complete in their growth.
“But as well we need the other players to support them in the right way and that’s why we’re trying to achieve this balance to be very competitive but also excited about the future ahead of us.”
It’s a statement that reads as though Arteta knows the current youth have a lot of promise but need more time if Arsenal are not going to damage them but instill confidence while competing for top honors. To do this, Arsenal will have to acknowledge and address the gap between them and the current top four with supplementary talent. Something many fans have been saying during this season.
One of the most divisive youth players in the squad and world right now is Matteo Guendouzi. At the extremely young point in his career, he has already amassed over 80 appearances for the Gunners. To put that in perspective, Aubameyang just reached 100 against Southampton.
It is an incredibly impressive mark, but during his last outing at The Amex versus Brighton, many feel he crossed the line when he choked Brighton’s forward Maupay after the game had ended. While the FA determined there would not be a retrospective ban, Guendouzi did not make the squad for Southampton.
While Arteta dismissed this as a form of punishment, there has been a slew of stories surfacing around a Guendouzi-Arteta fallout. When asked about Guendouzi’s future, Arteta said, “As I said yesterday in the press conference, whatever internal [issues] we have we will deal with them privately. I’m never going to make any of that public.”
He followed that up with a slightly cryptic answer when asked if he believed Guendouzi would be an Arsenal player next year.
“All the players that are here, I’m counting on them. If they want to jump on the boat they are more than welcome. That’s always my mindset – I’m here to help all of them to improve individually and collectively, and that is my job.”
It’s an interesting response given the suggestion and reports that Guendouzi has voiced to the club that he would be willing to live if an offer is presented. It is unclear whether these rumors are true or not but this is certainly a call for youth players to make sure their priorities are aligning with the club’s. Another game on Sunday, we will see if Guendouzi makes an appearance.