Fréd had an impressive game in Aston Villa’s first Premier League win of the season, and can keep building on this in the future.
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Before Aston Villa’s game against Everton this past weekend, many Villa supporters were calling for a bit of a change.
It wasn’t a change of tactic or a massive call for full rotation. Villa fans are a passionate bunch, but they know when something is starting to gel. They may not be the most patient fanbase known the world over, but surely wise enough to be able to identify when things are starting to fall into place. At Villa Park, the supporters of the Villan’s do not hold back. They expect the team to perform to the highest ability they can at their fabled ground and don’t recognise anything less. Losing in their first home game of the season at Villa Park against Bournemouth, the Villa players needed to put schoolboy mistakes and lapses of concentration behind them in the next fixture against Everton. The supporters were mumbling out for a win, sneering for even a draw, gritting their teeth for this Aston Villa team to perform to their ability.
Throughout preseason this summer leading up to the Premier League season, there were a few standouts among the new signings at Aston Villa’s disposal. In previous seasons under previous regimes, standout performers in the preseason were rarely given the chance to prove themselves when it really mattered in the regular season. Even the toughest Aston Villa supporter did not want this to happen to Frederic Guilbert. The French fullback was originally brought to Villa in the January transfer window of last season but was loaned back to his club at the time, Caen. The French club was desperately trying all they could to avoid relegation from Ligue One, and Guilbert was definitely in the plans to do just that. The loan had to happen if Villa were going to secure the services of Guilbert who was regarded as one of the better fullbacks in the top flight in France, albeit playing for a less than stellar team. There was so much intrigue over Guilbert when he signed and Villa supporters were very curious to what this defender could bring. It is a shame they had to wait for the better part of six months to find out exactly what that looked like.
Villa supporter and manager Dean Smith knows about the fans of Aston Villa. He knows they are loud, proud, sometimes abrasive but always, always paying attention to what is happening on the pitch. There were definitely a few rumblings among the Villa fanbase, about a player who couldn’t even be afforded a place on the bench for the first two Premier League games of the season that ended in consecutive losses.
Frédéric Guilbert indeed found himself on the team-sheet against Everton as the starting right-back for Aston Villa. Guilbert wasn’t alone as being a new arrival to the starting eleven. The man who Guilbert seemed to gain decent chemistry with during the preseason was also selected to be his partner on the right flank of the pitch in Spanish winger Jota. This was a time for both players to step up and prove to themselves and the Villa faithful that they could perform when the bone hits the marrow and results matter a great deal. The selection of Guilbert over the veteran Ahmed Elmohamady may have been seen as harsh to some, but Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said that Guilbert could add a different “dynamic” to his team. “Dynamics” may not have a statistical metric in the modern game of football, but if there was such an equation, Guilbert brought it by the bucket load to Villa Park against Everton.
It took a grand total of four minutes & five seconds for Guilbert to pick up his first yellow card of the season. Hardly a positive for a player who, with a bit of research, is known to have a bit of an undisciplined streak to him at times. Credit where credit is due, Guilbert hardly put a foot wrong for the rest of the contest against Everton. A 76.5% passing accuracy on 25 attempts saw the Frenchman play smart yet adventurous passes, something that Villa Park definitely showed their appreciation for with cheers. Guilbert also won nine of fourteen duels, proving that he has the belief and pace to try to go one-on-one with any defender put in his way. There is no question that after a few years of service by experienced veterans like Elmohamady and Alan Hutton, watching Guilbert at the fullback position was an entirely different type of player.
The pace of Guilbert was the most obvious ability to appreciate, which is one of the most integral parts of the modern-day fullback. In the 34th minute versus Everton, Jota played a scintillating back-heel through ball to an under-lapping Guilbert. The defender took a big touch to force the ball wide, then took off running down the right flank. Everton defender Yerry Mina was tasked with stopping Guilbert and had to give his all to catch the Villa man. A very promising pattern of play by both Guilbert and Jota. Add the pace on display to Guilbert’s tactical awareness and he constantly seems like he is in the right place at the right time on both sides of the ball. His partnership with Jota in the preseason definitely translated for Villa against Everton, with Jota supplying space for Guilbert to bomb forward and try to stretch the opposition into making a mistake.
It would be a bit of a wandering mind to think that Guilbert will play every game for Villa from here on out. Ahmed Elmohamady is still a very serviceable player for Dean Smith and didn’t do much wrong to “lose” his spot to Guilbert. Smith brought on Elmohamady from the bench against Everton in the 86th minute as a winger to help see out the contest. If Villa is to ultimately have a successful season by avoiding relegation, they need players to step up and stand-out when they are called upon. Every time.
That’s exactly what Frederic Guilbert did against an Everton side who were thinking they were leaving Villa Park with all three points. Goals from Wesley and Anwar El Ghazi were enough to see off an Everton side who finished 8th in the Premier League last season, three points shy of a EURO League qualification. Make no mistake, Guilbert played his part against Everton and in turn, gave Dean Smith and his coaching staff a bit of a selection wonder as the season crawls forward.