Jaden Philogene-Bidace is the latest Aston Villa youngster to have signed a professional deal to fend off interest from some of Europe’s elite clubs.
The 18-year-old winger has impressed in Villa’s academy setup since joining the club in January 2018, and Villa have been keen to secure Philogene-Bidace’s future after stepping up to the Under-23 side last season.
Seven teenage prospects including Kaine Kesler, Louie Barry and Myles Sohna had all penned new deals at Villa before Christian Purslow secured key academy assets Philogene-Bidace and Carney Chukwuemeka on new deals following the club’s Premier League survival.
Philogene-Bidace was reportedly interesting European football powerhouses Manchester City, Ajax and Bayern Munich. Football Insider also reported that Arsenal were keeping tabs on the youngster after some eye-catching displays in Villa’s reserve teams.
The winger notched six goals in ten games in the Under-18 Premier League after playing over 1000 minutes across Villa’s u18 and u23 sides last season. Since Philogene-Bidace made his u23 debut, Villa’s CEO Christian Purslow has since overhauled the club’s youth football operations.
Speaking at the Villa Supporters Trust’s AGM in January, Purslow said: “Frankly, I’m going to be brutal, 22-year-olds playing in an under-23 team means your system isn’t working.
“It means your system has failed because 22-year-old footballers at Aston Villa need to be in the first team. The ultimate goal is to populate the under-23 team with 11 outstanding 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, then I will know it’s working.
“And that will take years, not months. We need to be higher in recruiting the best eight-year-old, nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old, 12-year-old, 14, 16, one a year that makes it and gets a professional contract at 16.”
Villa have been populating their youth sides with the player profiles Purslow and Academy Manager, Mark Harrison desire. Birmingham Live have also revealed that a number of Harrison’s former staff at West Brom had resigned from their posts, with Villa going all-out to land Steve Hopcroft.
Johan Lange’s and Rob Mackenzie’s recent appointments have also bolstered Villa’s recruitment possibilities as the club tries to identify and lure Europe’s best, young talent to B6 – and Barry, Philogene-Bidace and Chukwuemeka will form the start of a new era for reserve football at Villa Park.
Philogene-Bidace hails from London and joined Villa after a succession of unsuccessful trials with several EFL clubs, one of which has been reported to have been Brentford, then managed by Villa’s head coach Dean Smith.
After a scholarship at a professional club proved elusive, Philogene-Bidace was asked along to the Pro:Direct Academy in London by Ahmed Abdulla, the winger’s former coach.
“He’s a really big character,” Abdulla explained to Birmingham Live.
Established in 2010, the Pro:Direct Academy develops players aged 16-18 years who train full-time like a pro with UEFA & FA Licensed coaches, and compete in weekly competitive fixtures against academies across the country.
“He relished the opportunity. He was outstanding every game.
“If ever we were drawing or losing at half-time and not playing well, Jaden would be the one the rest of the boys looked to to get us back into the game.”
After concentrating on his football and progressing through the Pro:Direct Academy, Philogene-Bidace has come on leaps and bounds at Bodymoor Heath, flying under the radar until his breakout year last season, though impressing in u23 games is just the start.
The four points we will look at in this analysis all influence Philogene-Bidace’s game, and so we will look at each one in a specific order. Firstly, we will analyse JPB’s athleticism and speed.
Athleticism and speed
Here, we can see that Philogene-Bidace has an instinct for hugging the touchline to create 1v1 scenarios. Most traditional wingers use this position to allow them room to shift the ball and move into space further up the pitch with speed. The image here demonstrates this idea.
What we can see is that JPB is keen to utilise the flanks in order to impact the game and influence the team’s attacking output. Notice his body position, engaging with the Derby County full-back, waiting for the defender to make his move and in that split second dart into the space further down the touchline.
His opposing right-back seems confident enough to defend the winger, showing him on the outside, backing his own athleticism to intercept JPB’s dribble on the left flank. JPB’s raw speed is clearly a key asset to his game and a major problem for opposition defenders who struggle to cope with his pace even with the ball at his feet.
In the next frame, we can see how quickly he makes up ten yards after taking one touch of the ball.
Beating a full-back with skill is a familiar sight with the ball at JPB’s feet, but simply running beyond his marker can be as effective when space is afforded on the wing.
His explosive speed is hard to manage if not to deal with altogether. JPB has explosive power in his legs that allows him to make up the space of a few yards in seconds.
Wingers must learn how to put force into the ground in a way that will help them move more efficiently, and so JPB knows if he can drag defenders out of position, there will be space in behind to attack and hunt down centre-backs to increase the chances of scoring or assisting goals.
Young footballers must condition their body to apply more force which when put into the ground with good mechanics, the athlete can run faster. We can conclude that from JPB’s sprinting time and technique, his hip flexion and extension is very efficient, allowing himself to cover short distances faster than most defenders and full-backs. Raheem Sterling, Daniel James and Allan Saint-Maximin are all very efficient with their running style and biomechanics performance.
In conjunction with his raw speed and impressive rate of acceleration, Philogene-Bidace also depends on agility to change direction quickly and manipulate his attacking sequences in order to beat a player or change his angle to approach for a cross or pass.
This particular image shows how JPB can beat a defender with one touch to flick the ball over the head of an oncoming full-back. Whilst the execution of the skill is perfect, the speed to cover the ground behind the Doncaster player is what makes the skill clinical and effective.
A winger’s agility can be a serious threat to defences. Here, in the image, JPB manages to flip Doncaster’s defensive line and disrupt the shape to not only allow space for the quick winger to advance into, but offer more space for midfielders to make up the gaps running into the final third where the attack has developed.
Philogene-Bidace has all the physical hallmarks of a dangerous winger, from blistering pace to rapid agility. His requisite technical skills are just as dangerous to opposing defenders.
Technical skills in abundance
In this instance, JPB goes searching for the ball to feet, demonstrating his confidence when the ball is fed short. We know he can operate on the flanks effectively when running in behind the defensive line with his pace, but receiving the ball to feet is also a key theme of his game.
“He won’t be shy to ask for the ball. He hunts the ball and makes things happen”, former coach Abdulla said.
In the image, the pass towards the winger carries enough weight that it could force a poor first touch, but quickly adjusting his body shape and being aware of the Doncaster defender, JPB flicks the ball over his head before collecting it in space on the other side.
His ability to take a first touch and take a defender out of the game is a massive bonus to Villa’s armoury, with defenders invariably uncertain whether to drop off and let JPB advance further into the final third, or mark tighter and risk being outwitted with his quick feet and skill.
JPB’s former coach, Abdulla was keen to highlight what a confident player he is. He’s said: ”Some people are shy, he won’t be like that, he’ll go in there thinking he’s better than everyone else – not in a negative way, he’s just extremely confident.”
To execute such a technical skill takes not only confidence but the ability to know when and where to perform the move. In the following sequence we can see how JPB has a spatial awareness that helps him perform certain moves to effectively increase goal output.
Here, Philogene-Bidace makes up the numbers in the box to latch onto a cross from the right flank. Surrounded by two Arsenal defenders, the winger calmly drops the shoulder to better his angle at goal with a centre-back rushing to block his presumed shot.
Once more, the first touch to shift the ball to increase the probability of scoring is key in this move. JPB not only had the awareness to execute the skill but the ability to pull it off under the pressure of on-rushing defenders.
By analysing Jaden’s capacity to remain calm and confident while under the pressure of defenders, his maturity whilst only playing in reserve games is encouraging. Confidence for a winger is an important trait, and if he can translate his u18 form into an u23 climate, he will be able to prove that his development can be fast-tracked into the senior ranks within the next 18 months.
Now we’ve outlined the key themes of JPB’s game, the more detailed aspects are easier to understand from the footage analysed from Villa’s reserve games last season.
All the traits and qualities for a modern winger
In the first image below, JBP finds himself on the left flank, a usual position for him to take up to help Villa build up to make a final third entry.
Two Manchester City players, the right-back and right winger double up to limit the room Villa’s winger has to manoeuvre in and ultimately progress past the half-way line. Infield, a City midfielder blocks JPB’s path into the middle of the pitch, and forces him to take on and beat the full-back with a limited time to think how with pressure coming from all angles.
Whilst a Villa midfielder makes space to offer a pass out of pressure, JPB prefers to take on his marker and back his ability with the ball at his feet to outwit the opposition and take three players out the game in one skill.
City have a renowned culture of pressing the ball and retaining possession, but in these images we can see how JPB has managed to successfully use his skill and pace against arguably the best in his age group. City’s u18 side won the Premier League division by 12 points last season.
Whilst Jaden’s average position is out wide, and predominantly on the left side of attack, his plethora of skills allow him to take up a central position and cause as many problems against a number of defenders in central areas rather just one, in a 1v1 situation.
Here, this can be explained further.
If there was one sequence to demonstrate JPB’s composure and skill acquisition, his back heel assist against Derby is the one. You could watch the clip 100 times and still struggle to see how he’s picked out a team-mate surrounded by five Derby defenders, all crammed around the ball.
Fending off a couple of midfielders is the first impressive part of JPB’s assist, keeping a hold of the ball with good feet and a steady balance, all before spotting the run of Villa’s midfielder around the back of a congested Derby box.
The audacious back-heel pass in his path was no fluke, and JPB’s intentions prove the confidence he has to impact the game through one pass or one piece of skill or quality. At youth level, the opportunity to perform such skills and develop a confidence on the pitch can offer a false sense of security but the sheer level of quality to master this pass is outstanding.
Jaden’s movement beyond defenders can be as simple as knocking the ball beyond them and chasing it down with a short burst of acceleration to get on the wrong side of a defender. He’s no one-trick pony though, dribbling at speed is one thing, applying skill to deceive a centre-back is another.
Usually operating on the left-wing, JPB is here displaying his versatility as he drives inside from the right flank. He’s got the capacity to hurt defenders coming in from either wing and at various angles, whether it be direct at goal or down the wing in a traditional manner.
After dribbling inside the pitch with both feet at a considerable pace, Villa’s winger engages with a Cardiff defender before beating him with a quick step-over to create an angle for a shot at goal. Without the ability to compliment his agility with skill, JPB’s game would be rather one-dimensional, and in senior football his game would be easier to defend. However, without being short of confidence to dip the shoulder and make something happen in front of a rigid defensive line, he’s a winger with multiple tools to unlock a defence.
We know Philogene-Bidace can be lethal coming in off the wing, beating his opponent with pace and trickery, but so very often, a winger of his pedigree and of his age will come unstuck in the next pattern of play.
Here, we can evaluate his instinct to drive at the heart of defences and cause problems at goal, rather than pick up positions away from it.
In this image, after beating the Derby right-back, he sprints towards goal and commits an isolated centre-back rather than use the space on the wing. His confidence in his own ability to beat players is hereby obvious once again. He knows where he can hurt an opposition and that his ability will be enough to beat defenders of his age and inexperience.
Developing the success rate of his take-ons and more importantly the end product having beaten an opponent and advanced into the final third will be crucial to his game in a few years, when he’s projected to be playing amongst the first team at 20-years-of-age.
Jaden impressed in front of goal for Villa’s reserve sides last season having scored six in ten. By further analysing the clip of his goal against Arsenal, we can identify that his movement is uncommon, yet a massive plus for the average winger.
Without a striker within the vicinity of the six-yard box in this image, JPB’s movement to come inside from a wide position made all the difference in this attacking move.
Wingers are often criticised for going missing out wide, and to an extent they can become scapegoats when the flow of a match doesn’t suit their strengths, but what we can analyse here, is that JPB wants to impact a match with goals.
Scoring a goal in over half of his academy appearances last year is no mean feat for the young wide-man. His composure in this particular clip allows him to take a touch and finish with aplomb. But first and foremost, his movement and goal-scoring instinct to make up the numbers in the box, and to expect the cross let alone finish it, is very encouraging.
What is almost certain is that Villa’s u18 side wouldn’t be able to play in the same expansive manner that they’ve used for the past season, seeming that JPB will be promoted to the u23 side. His width allows midfielders to occupy space and his ability on the ball means Villa can carry a serious goalscoring threat.