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Guendouzi only wanted Arsenal. Sven Mislintat and Unai Emery had both sought after him with their former employers, and when Arsenal first approached Lorient, the French side knew they were serious.
“Arsenal contacted us and it was very clear immediately he was a player they wanted to sign,” Lorient president Loic Fery remembers. “Once we had those clubs starting to be interested, we asked him where he wanted to go. He told me that Arsenal was his preference. He wanted to play in the Premier League and Arsenal would be great for him.”
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Lorient were happy to sell him there. “One thing we don’t do at Lorient is let players who have such big potential go to clubs that are not top notch,” Fery says. “We definitely felt Arsenal would be a very good match for him.”
£7.5m later he was an Arsenal player and on Sunday Guendouzi made his Premier League debut at the Emirates against Manchester City. Up against the Premier League champions he looked out of place one moment then comfortably at home the next. He was brushed aside by Raheem Sterling for City’s first goal, but provided more midfield creativity than any of his team-mates. Assured and incisive in possession, he already looks like a more gifted deep-lying passer than Granit Xhaka.
It was a performance that underlined Guendouzi’s promise but also his lack of experience. He had only started four top flight games in his life before this one, and had never truly established himself in French senior football. And yet to speak to anyone who has worked with Guendouzi at Lorient is to hear of his unusual talent, and a temperament to match.