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FEATURE | Frédéric Guilbert – why Aston Villa have landed one of the most talented defenders in Ligue 1

The following article is extracted from Get French Football News’s 200,000 word guide to the world of French football, The Get French Football News 100 which focused on ranking individuals’ performances over the course of 2018 as a calendar year. To download the whole guide, click here.

The following piece was written in December 2018 and published on the 1st January 2019. Frédéric Guilbert ranked 77th in the 2018 edition and ranked 69th in our index out of French football’s 100 best players in this year’s Get French Football News 100.

At just 23 years old, Frédéric Guilbert has already made a name for himself in French football. The right-back has made over 100 Ligue 1 appearances between his time with both Caen and Bordeaux and got his first taste of European football while with the latter. Now back in Normandy since the summer of 2017, Guilbert has established himself as one of the best in his position, thanks in part to his impressive defensive contributions and incredible work-rate.

Stade Malherbe Caen were in the thick of it for much of last season, dipping in and out of the bottom three before eventually securing a safe 16th-place finish. With an inconsistent attack that scored just 27 goals, the lowest record in the league, Caen and then manager Patrice Garande, relied heavily on their defence and its solidity.

At the heart of these defensive efforts was the ever-present Frédéric Guilbert. The young right-back appeared in 36 of 38 matches and amassed a total of 3240 minutes played, the highest in the team. The defensive contributions that Guilbert made are impressive not only within the context of his club, but also within the league as a whole. Across Ligue 1 the 23-year-old ranked third in interceptions completed per game (2.5) and first in tackles completed per game (3.8).

Outside of defensive basics, Guilbert has also shown an ability to get forward and contribute to his side’s attack. The right-back has a good passing range which often features long balls and can regularly play a dangerous cross into the box when asked.

What the young defender can and should work on, however, is his tendency to commit bookable fouls. Over the course of last season Guilbert picked up 12 yellow cards, one of the highest tallies of the league. That being said, it seems as though there is already a noticeable improvement, as at the time of writing he has picked up just four over the opening 15 matches of the 2018/19 campaign. If Guilbert continues at this rate, then he might not crack double figures for the season.

Caen’s defensive stalwart has also shown improvements on his tactical adaptability since the start of this campaign. Patrice Garande rarely used the Frenchman outside of right-back last season, but new manager Fabien Mercadal has been pushing Guilbert outside of his perceived comfort zone. Since the start of 2018/19 the 23-year-old has seen significant action across the defensive line, with five matches at centre-back and one at left-back. Standing at 1.78m, Guilbert is not the tallest, but has seemed comfortable in a more central role.

Now becoming more and more of a known entity, one should not expect to see Frédéric Guilbert at Caen much longer. Both Brighton and RB Leipzig were heavily linked with the talented young defender, and if he continues to lead Ligue 1’s defensive charts then such rumours will continue to swirl. Caen in the meantime will be wishing that Guilbert was as good a central defender as he is a right-back, after a largely miserable first half of the 2018/19 campaign sees them once again in contention for a relegation dogfight.

G.M.

 

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