Opinion

Aston Villa’s Mismanagement of French Talent Must End With Guilbert

Pourquoi? Aston Villa haven’t made the most of their scouts finding gems from the French leagues in recent years – which needs to end with highly rated Frederic Guilbert.
Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)
Aston Villa have had a knack for bringing in French players over the past number of years, but those players never have seemed to work out the way it was supposed to. Excitement in the past was at an all-time high for French players such as Jordan Veretout & Jordan Amavi, although both players Villa careers landed with a resounding thud and multiple questions to be asked.
 

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint exactly why these and other players such as Idrissa Gana Gueye (who is not French, but a talent from Ligue 1), seem to be of such quality, but only after they left the set-up at Aston Villa. 

Veretout is currently enjoying the best football of his career at Fiorentina in Italy. Jordan Amavi is plying his trade at Marseille in France, after being deemed a ‘luxury player’ after Aston Villa suffered relegation from the Premier League. Idrissa Gueye has been turning heads at Everton since 2015, when the Toffies activated a relegation release clause on the then Aston Villa player. Gueye was even heavily rumoured to have been under the watchful eye of none other than Paris Saint-Germain throughout the entirety of the previous January transfer window. It has always been a mystery of how in fact we could let promising French talent such as these players go for marginal, and looking back on it, outrageously low fees.
 

Whichever team of scouts that have had Aston Villa’s interests in mind when it comes to French players has done a remarkable job. Veretout was always looked at as a very promising midfielder, you can say the same for Gueye as well. Amavi seemed to have more of a tricky development on his hands but never really looked to be able to adapt to the English style of football more often than not. 

Aston Villa’s signing of Frenchman Frederic Guilbert in the January transfer window did not come without a bit of mystique and intrigue, either. All scouting reports and general opinions from those who have watched Guilbert play in France proclaim that bringing in the Frenchman is a great piece of business for Villa. Time will tell what exactly the French defender can bring to the squad next season after completing his season at Caen. One thing is for sure, it will be a breath of fresh air to see a young and promising defender join Aston Villa, as the current crop of defenders seem to be ageing at an accelerated rate. 

There are many, many things that has changed since Veretout, Gueye and Amavi have played at Aston Villa. A new ownership, new assistant managers, a new understanding of how to attempt to get back to the Premier League, but there is one glaring improvement at the current Aston Villa that may see new-boy Guilbert flourish. 

His name is Dean Smith. 

Admittedly, Smith is having a less than impressive time at the moment trying to manage an ageing squad to a play-off position in the 2nd tier of English football. It is no worldly secret that Smith is going to undertake a massive squad overhaul at Villa during the summer months in an attempt to bring in players who fit his system, mentality and level of determination he has had at previous managerial posts. 

Smith has had a knack for getting the best out of young and hungry players, and that’s something that is not possible at the present time at Aston Villa.  A number of older players are out of contract come the end of the current season and positions all over the pitch will need to be solidified. Guilbert will most likely go toe to toe with James Bree for starting right-back duties in the 2019-2020 season. Smith and his coaching staff could in fact be the type of people to take these younger players by the scruff of their neck and make them realise their potential to be very revered at Villa Park for a long time to come. 

There hasn’t been a coach that truly believes in youth at Aston Villa in a long time. Even while some of the more inspiring Aston Villa youngsters were dispatched to short-term loan spells in the January transfer window, there just isn’t a place for them currently in the starting eleven. It cannot be stressed enough how pivotal it is for young footballers to get time on the pitch outside of a U23 set-up. Development and stagnation cannot possibly sit in the same room together and the coaching staff at Villa seem very privy to that idea. 

It is starting to become strikingly obvious that Dean Smith believes that he and his coaching staff have what it takes to develop young talent in a way that will help Aston Villa not only as a football club but as a business as well. Players such as Amavi and Gueye could definitely have flourished at Aston Villa under the right manager. Guilbert just may be a player who can shine brightly under the guidance of Dean Smith and defensive coach John Terry.
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