Aston Villa’s Frederic Guilbert impressed with his appearance from the bench against Arsenal last night.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Aston Villa’s summer recruitment has been heavily criticised this season. However, if last night’s win over Arsenal demonstrated anything, it was that they possessed the fight Villa that fans demand.
In his pre-match interview, Dean Smith told his players to play with courage, and Matt Targett, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet and Frederic Guilbert did just that yesterday. The summer recruits straining every sinew to make sure Villa kept their shape in order to block any openings in which the Arsenal frontline could exploit.
Guilbert was the player who best summarised the feelings in the Villa camp when he made an excellently timed sliding tackle on Kieran Tierney, won a goal kick, before screaming “COME ON” to his teammates.
The last time Guilbert pulled on an Aston Villa shirt in the Premier League prior to yesterday came on the 9th March as Villa lost 4-0 to Leicester. It’s fair to say the Frenchman had a game to forget that night at the King Power; Guilbert was run ragged by Harvey Barnes and was caught out of position on multiple occasions due to an overenthusiastic attacking approach. So, when Ahmed Elmohamady had to come off after 25 minutes, you would be forgiven for not feeling comfortable at the sight of Guilbert taping his shins pads up.
But the substitute Villa defender put in a performance that provided a heavy contrast to his Leicester showing. Instead of darting up the right flank wildly, the 25-year old was determined, disciplined, and used his pace smartly to marshal the likes of Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
You could tell that Guilbert thoroughly enjoyed himself in the Villa Park sunset. The full-back was not afraid to boot the ball when needed and demonstrated his defensive capabilities by not conceding a single foul despite making several tackles.
Talking of tackling, the Frenchman leads the charts for most tackles made in a Villa shirt this term, winning the ball on 74 occasions. The Pride’s next best tackler, Marvelous Nakamba, is quite a way behind with 55 tackles.
Signed from Caen in January 2019, Guilbert saw out the remainder of the 2018/19 season on loan at the then Ligue 1 club. On the day that Villa made the signing, Villa sat 10th in the Championship. This suggesting that Smith acquired Guilbert envisaging that the 25-year-old’s first full season with the Pride would take place in the Championship.
And Guilbert had to wait until game number three of 19/20 to pull on a Villa shirt in a league fixture, the Frenchman replacing Elmohamady in the starting XI in the win over Everton. Despite making more Premier League appearances making more appearances than anyone else at right-back this term, you get the feeling Guilbert has yet to nail down the position as his own.
Over the lockdown period, Guilbert was recovering from a knee injury, meaning Konsa had to fill in on the right side of defence during the first few games after the restart. Then, when the former Brentford man moved centrally, it was Ahmed Elmohamady who came in to fill that vacant right-back role. However, with the Egyptian pulling up with a suspected hamstring injury in the first half, it’s unlikely Elmohamady will be able to play on Sunday.
Thankfully, last night’s display showed that Guilbert is more than ready for the battle as Villa go into climactic final day showdown away to West Ham. It’s a game that will require guts and determination, and Guilbert has shown he has that in abundance.