Mikel Arteta has deprived Arsenal of a “natural leader” and a perfect candidate to succeed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the club’s captain, according to one manager.
Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy last month after the latest in a long line of disciplinary breaches. The veteran striker was exiled from the first-team by his manager, and rumours persist of Arsenal being open to his exit this month.
Since losing the armband, Alexandre Lacazette has filled in for his fellow frontman. However, he has not officially been appointed the captain and could yet leave when the season concludes.
The Frenchman has entered the final six months of his Gunners contract. A new two-year deal has been touted, though whether it will be signed remains to be seen.
As such, a decision over who will take the armband could rumble on and on. But according to Marseille manager Jorge Sampaoli, Arteta has made a mistake by axing a “natural leader” in Matteo Guendouzi.
The 22-year-old midfielder is currently on loan at Marseille and is producing the performances of his life. His showings have been to such a high standard that he was recently given his maiden cap for France in November.
But to go along with his on-field prowess, Sampaoli spoke in glowing terms regarding his newfound leadership abilities.
“[Guendouzi] is 22 but acts like he’s 30” – Sampaoli
“Aside from his youth, Matteo has a particular energy,” Sampaoli said recently (via the Mirror). “He has a desire to win and he’s a natural leader.
“We imagined that would be the case but that it would happen over time. Seeing this in addition to his performances, we have an energy that everyone can envy.
“It is contagious and it’s a very important value in life. Experience is important for everyone but, for young people, sometimes difficult events are not good experiences. There is also personal capacity on the mental side.
Juventus midfielder to give Arsenal central help this January
Arsenal want to bring in Arthur from Juventus to help with their midfield problems til the end of the season
“Guendouzi, for example, he is a 22-year-old but he acts like he is 30. The most important thing is maturity.”
Guendouzi was shipped out on loan last summer after a reported fallout with Arteta.
He indicated his strong desire to make the move permanent in November, and the Mirror state it ‘remains unlikely’ he will return to the Emirates when his loan stint concludes. Marseille negotiated an option to buy in the deal, and given his stellar showings, they look odds on to activate it.
Vlahovic deal hinges on Arsenal sale?
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s big push to secure the Dusan Vlahovic transfer this month is unlikely to go through until the Gunners can offload a problematic star first, according to one observer.
Vlahovic has 18 months left on his current deal and it remains unclear if he will renew. In October, Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso revealed that the Serbian had rejected a number of extension offers.
As 2022 has come around, serious interest has emerged from Arsenal. The Gunners are in fact reportedly willing to pay a total of £150million to sign the striker. And following extensive talks, reports on Saturday reported that a begrudging Fiorentina have ‘reluctantly accepted his sale’.
However, Arsenal may struggle to finance the deal unless they can shift Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang first, according to former goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.
“Arsenal have to find someone who is willing to pay his wages,” Kenny said. I doubt there are many clubs who will want to pay even half of what he’s earning. He’s at the wrong end of his career and everyone knows about his disciplinary record.
“Clubs won’t want to pay a big fee for him. He’s not out of contract until the summer of 2023 so it’s not like he can go on loan and leave for free at the end of the season.
“Will clubs want to take him on loan? I’m not sure. But if Arsenal are going to make this big Vlahovic signing then Aubameyang is going to have to go in one form or another. I don’t think Vlahovic comes in unless Aubameyang leaves.”