Now that Guilbert is an Aston Villa player, what can the side expect from him?
Words by Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
Frederic Guilbert is now officially an Aston Villa player after his season has ended at Caen in France.
Guilbert put pen-to-paper at Villa in January, but Caen wished for the defender to be loaned back in an attempt of league survival. The 24-year-old has said multiple times how much Caen means to him on a personal level, and that he felt it was his duty to help the club avoid being relegated. This sadly did not happen, and a 1-0 loss to Bordeaux condemned Caen to relegation. Guilbert was seen crying on the pitch at the full-time whistle with his hands and shirt over his face. You cannot fault the man for his passion, his drive and his performances for Caen over the course of their season. That kind of passion is exactly why he was a coveted signature to obtain for Villa.
Guilbert made 34 appearances for Caen over the season, most of those appearances were in the right-back position, although he did feature as a centreback on six occasions and didn’t look out of place whatsoever. An average match rating on the season of 6.97 is reason to smile for Villa supporters, which is even more flattering in terms of knowing that the club he played for would ultimately be relegated.
The nine yellow cards and one red card at Caen during his campaign is a bit of a cause for concern on a disciplinary standpoint, but Guilbert’s accumulation of cards only defines him in terms of playing ability. The 5-foot 8-inch defender is known in Ligue One as being a proficient and hard tackler, and that plays exactly into what Aston Villa are looking for in defence. An average of 3.1 clearances per game signifies that Guilbert is not afraid to clear his lines when his team is pinned in their own half of the pitch. He also maintained an average of 2.9 tackles a game throughout his season with Caen. Guilbert may habitually overstep the laws of the football on occasion, but Villa supporters will fall in love with a defender of that calibre if his style of play can translate to the Premier League.
One area that Guilbert could improve with is his passing proficiency. A 74.2% passing success rate through 34 games is fairly average and certainly would need to improve in the Premier League, a league in which skilful fullbacks are seeming to reinvent the position very rapidly.
His defensive ability far surpasses his offensive ability and that’s not a bad thing for a newly promoted side such as Aston Villa. Villa manager Dean Smith likes to play an attractive style of football, but he also practices being solid in defence. Guilbert is talented at charging down shots, crosses and passes seemingly at will. In Ligue One this past season, Guilbert blocked 21 shots, 14 crosses and 28 passes. 78 interceptions also cement the argument that Guilbert is a defence-first, old school fullback.
The fire and determination of the French defender cannot be ignored. Caen co-manager Rolland Courbis revealed in a press conference recently that Guilbert was involved in a training bust-up with teammate Faycal Fajr. Courbis exclaimed that both players were so fired up to win in the next match, that they may have gotten a bit carried away. Both Guilbert and Fajr kept their place in the team regardless of the bust-up, but Villa will most likely benefit from having a personality such as that coming through the door for their first season back in the Premier League.
Dean Smith and Christian Purslow have said multiple times that they would like to not only bring in quality players to Aston Villa moving forward, they would also like to bring in quality people as well. When asked about a disconnect between Caen supporters and the players after a tough run of form in February, Guilbert was quoted as saying:
“How can we blame them? They are people who get up early in the morning, who work to pay for their place. We are doing a dream job. When you go to the factory every morning, you pay your bills, you bring your children, you want happiness. We must at least show something, show that we are warriors.”– Frederic Guilbert on the disconnect between Caen’s team and supporters.
If Guilbert can find a home at Aston Villa and play with as much drive that he did with Caen, he could blossom into a fan favorite. There is a definitive chain of depth at Villa these days, especially after Ahmed Elmohamady had a second-half of the season to remember. James Bree will also return to Villa after being dispatched to loan, but football thrives on competition and that’s most likely what Villa supporters will see during the pre-season.