Philogene-Bidace has been a key part of pre-season and has started every game so far. Could Emery have a plan for the youngster?

Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy


In the January of 2019, a number of new arrivals walked through the doors of Bodymoor Heath, ranging in quality and their overall impact to the club. Lovre Kalinic, Kortney Hause, Tom Carroll and Tyrone Mings all joined the club, as did a number of highly-rated youth prospects.

One such youth prospect was then 17-year-old Jaden Philogene-Bidace, a member of the London-based Pro:Direct Academy that offers full-time football and education programmes. Pro-Direct have a number of bases across the UK, including in Birmingham. Jaden had been trialling for a number of professional sides across the country, before being offered a place in the Aston Villa U18 set-up.

At the time there were a number of players ahead of him, with Indiana Vassilev, Colin Odutayo and Dimitri Sea – all no longer with the club – getting game time ahead of the winger. Opportunity did arise a few months later and he scored on his debut for the youth sides against Brighton, before scoring a brace in the first half against Southampton, with the opposition media referring to Jaden as “Villa’s brightest spark”.

His former coach, Ahmed Abdulla, was quick to praise Philogene-Bidace’s confidence, stating that he was a “big character” and that he would join Aston Villa “thinking that he was better than everyone else, but not negatively – he’s just that confident”.

Unsurprisingly, he likely was better than most of the players in that U18 set-up, which Aston Villa captain John McGinn was quick to attest to following the side’s 3-3 pre-season draw with Newcastle, stating that Jaden “clearly had ability” when he started training with the senior side.

Following loan spells at Stoke City, and a more successful one at a struggling Cardiff City side, in which Philogene-Bidace was considered integral to the Bluebirds survival hopes, the winger has allegedly picked up attention from the continent – with Lens, Anderlecht and Union Berlin all supposedly interested in the youngster.


This pre-season, the club’s first under Unai Emery, has seen Philogene-Bidace pick up plaudits and stake his claim for a role in the squad this season. The winger performed well last pre-season too, before being loaned out to Cardiff.

It is perhaps the loan to Cardiff that has prepared him well for operating under Emery. Under Mark Hudson’s management at the Bluebirds Jaden operated mostly as a winger, but under Sabri Lamouchi the youngster developed his game and showcased his versatility. Appearances on either wing, in central midfield and even as a makeshift wingback followed. His time in the Welsh capital allowed him to mature as a person and a player.

In his three games this pre-season Philogene-Bidace has started each game, likely due to the extended holiday awarded to Leon Bailey following his game time with Jamaica in the Gold Cup. The 21-year-old has been a major part of each fixture, winning the penalty that levelled the scores against Walsall and scoring the opening goal against Fulham. Even against Newcastle, the winger was a constant threat and outlet on the right.

His display against Fulham has cemented for many fans that the winger should stay at the club this season – with added games due to the Europa Conference League at the forefront of their mind. This display in particular, however, showcased why exactly Unai Emery is placing so much faith into Jaden Philogene-Bidace this pre-season.

Aston Villa utilised a slightly different shape – opting for Ezri Konsa at right-back and creating an auxiliary back three by instructing him to sit deeper and play narrower. Lucas Digne’s starting position was often higher up the pitch. In this system, Philogene-Bidace was somewhat of a stand-in wingback, starting from a higher position but racing up and down the pitch and offering both offensive and defensive attributes – something which players like Bailey, who will be vying for his position in the squad, struggle to balance.

Keeping Jaden around this season offers Unai Emery this ace up his sleeve, knowing he has a capable winger who’s past spell in the Sky Bet Championship has moulded him perfectly for this particular role. The additional tactical flexibility that utilising Philogene-Bidace in Premier League, European or cup competitions will be invaluable to Emery and Aston Villa this season.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether more incomings will follow the latest arrival of Moussa Diaby, and whether said arrivals will push younger players down the pecking order – but registration rules for the Europa Conference League could force Unai to keep players like Jaden at the club for the trials ahead.


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