Matteo Guendouzi says he used to follow Arsenal on TV more than any other foreign club growing up, and he’s living the dream playing for them now.
Speaking to SoccerBible Magazine this month, Guendouzi talked about why he decided to come to England last summer, and what it was that drew him to Arsenal in particular.
“I’ve always wanted to play football in England,” Guendouzi said. “The Premier League is a wonderful league with great clubs, great players, great coaches. I’ve always wanted to play in this league, and now that I’m here I’m really happy.
“I’ve always wanted to play for a club like Arsenal because, first of all, there have been so many French players who’ve played there. I used to watch Arsenal on TV more than other foreign clubs. It’s not like any other club. It’s a legendary club with a big, big, big history.
“So, for me, it’s a dream to sign for Arsenal and today I’m living this dream and it’s wonderful.”
When Guendouzi joined Arsenal from Lorient, most people were under the impression that he was one for the future. This was a teenager with just 30 senior appearances behind him, who wasn’t commanding a particularly large fee and wasn’t even playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues, given Lorient’s 2016/17 relegation to Ligue 2.
Nonetheless, the midfielder has been a key part of Unai Emery’s side this season. He’s made 47 appearances already, and he’s in line to make the squad for the Europa League final next week.
Clearly, Guendouzi has adapted well to what he says is a completely different footballing culture in England.
“It’s not the same atmosphere. English supporters live for football,” he said. “You see them before matches, you see them in bars together. They live for it. In France, there is a good atmosphere too, but in England, you feel this amazing vibe everywhere, in every stadium you can feel it.
“In France the vibe changes depending on the place. In England, you can play against the team at the top of the league or the very bottom, and the atmosphere remains the same. It’s always crazy.
“You feel closer to supporters on the pitch in England too, because when you play they’re almost next to you, and it’s even more exhilarating! And then when you play away, you see the opposition fans scowling at you and it makes you want to fight against their team even more.”
It’s not quite going to be the same in Baku, with the fans separated from the pitch by an Olympic running track, and smaller allocations for the two teams involved. It’s not as if the players should need much motivation for such an important final though, and if Guendouzi really wants to live his dream at Arsenal that surely involves trophies.