There is a statue in Rio de Janeiro, on top of the Corcovado mountain, that observes all passers by from above, whether they are locals or tourists, and is ready to listen to their lamentations and offer support.
From its almost 100 feet, this imposing and vaguely intimidating figure is there to offer forgiveness and redemption to anyone who wants to straighten their path in life.
Provided you take the first step and start the path that leads to a new serenity, that statue is ready to offer support and understanding. You have to want to take that step, though; you have to want to start that path, though, or that statue will remain what it is: a block of marble, immobile and immovable.
In London there is no such statue and there is not even a shadow of mountains overlooking the sea, however recently some pilgrimages have been observed in search of the same redemption, the same path of change.
In place of that statue there is a man, who seems to have only two things in marble: his hair and his beliefs.
With integrity and inflexibility, that man collected some lost footballing souls and brought them back to the right path, repaying with unconditional trust the efforts made by these souls in difficulty; Dani Ceballos and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have gone through it, coming out completely different and visibly better – at least as players – and Alexandre Lacazette, David Luiz and Emiliano Martínez have also done it, albeit with less dazzling but still appreciable results.
You will certainly have understood who I am referring to, by now, and this dangerous exercise, squeezed between similitude and blasphemy, is a way to emphasize Mikel Arteta’s new role of redeemer, inside the Arsenal locker room.
During the pre-Liverpool press conference, the Basque coach confirmed that he is ready to take on his biggest challenge so far and help the most rebellious of his sheep, on this arduous path: Mattéo Guendouzi.
The French midfielder, who completely disappeared from the radars after the away defeat at Brighton, is widely expected to leave this summer and his relationship with the manager and the rest of the Club is repeatedly described as irreparably broken, yet Mikel Arteta wanted to publicly point out how his door remains open and how Mattéo Guendouzi is treated – and deserves to be treated – like any other player in the squad.
Although temperamentally difficult to manage, the young French talent could become a more than useful element in a midfield like ours, so technically poor and mentally fragile; at just 21, Mattéo Guendouzi has so much unexplored potential that Mikel Arteta could transform into skills, reliability and consistency, as long as the PSG academy product – briefly transited through Lorient – is willing to embark on this long journey towards redemption.
All Mattéo Guendouzi has to do is walk, his head down, to the man with the hair and the convictions of marble, clearly and irrevocably confirm that he wants to start his personal path of redemption, and put himself in the hands of Mikel Arteta.
Before his eyes he has two examples of players reborn, thanks to the attentions of the manager – one who is more or less the same age as him and another who fulfills exactly the same role as him.
In addition, Mattéo Guendouzi is lucky enough to have a coach who, during his previous career, was just a midfielder – and who wasn’t too shabby at it.
Who else can boast of having such a Basque Redeemer at home? What are you waiting for, Mattéo?
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.