A trip to north-western France represents a homecoming of sorts for Matteo Guendouzi, the Arsenal midfielder who returns to his home country with a reputation that has soared beyond all expectations this season.
When Guendouzi left Lorient for London last summer, for a fee of about £7 million, he was seen as an encouraging midfield prospect with plenty to prove. The consensus was that he might play in cup competitions under Unai Emery, operating on the fringes of the first team as he adapted to a new club and a new culture.
It did not take long, though, for Guendouzi to prove he was ready for regular football. He did so early in his Arsenal career, thriving on the club’s pre-season tour and bursting into the first team at the start of the Premier League season. He has stayed there ever since, adapting at a startling rate to become, at the age of just 19, one of the mainstays of Emery’s new-look Arsenal.
As he arrived in Rennes for the first leg of Arsenal’s round of 16 Europa League tie on Thursday night, Guendouzi could hold his head up high.
This is his patch, in a way, with Lorient only a 90-minute drive from Rennes, and these are his people he will be hoping to impress.