Jaden Philogene-Bidace has put pen-to-paper on a new contract with Aston Villa to become the newest academy graduate to make it off Bodymoor Heath’s conveyor-belt of talent in recent months.
The highly-rated forward has been in fine form for Villa’s Under-23 squad this term, netting five goals and registering two assists in 11 appearances, and his new deal runs until June 2024.
Philogene-Bidace, who turned 19 last month, has also been capped by England at Under-19 level when he scored a hat-trick in his only cap to date.
Academy manager Mark Harrison said: “It is fantastic to see Jaden commit to a new long-term contract.
“He has had a really good last six months with some excellent performances in the U23s, which has led to him training with the first team on a regular basis and has recently seen him travel with them to games.
“We are very excited to see how Jaden develops over the next few years.”
The youngster had 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-23s side last season.
Seven teenage prospects including Kaine Kesler, Louie Barry and Myles Sohna had all penned new academy 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 last season.
Philogene-Bidace was reportedly of interest to European football powerhouses Manchester City, Ajax and Bayern Munich, while 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 overhauled the club’s youth football operations.
Speaking at the Villa Supporters Trust’s AGM a year ago, 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. Johan Lange’s and Rob Mackenzie’s appointments last season have also bolstered Villa’s recruitment possibilities, as the club tries to identify and lure Europe’s best, young talent to B6 – and Barry, Kesler, Philogene-Bidace, Chukwuemeka, the Ramsey brothers and others are forming 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 for Philogene-Bidace, the youngster 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 as 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 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, although, impressing in U23 games is just the start.
The three points we will look at in this analysis all influence Philogene-Bidace’s ever-improving game, and so we will look at each one in a specific order. Firstly, we will analyse Philogene-Bidace’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, which is a modern trait that most academy players have in their armoury. Most traditional wingers will use this position to allow themselves room to shift the ball and move into space further up the pitch with speed. This idea is demonstrated below.
We can analyse that Philogene-Bidace 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, darts into space further down the touchline.
Philogene-Bidace’s opposing right-back seems confident enough in standing up and defending against his threat by showing him on the outside and backing his own athleticism to intercept Jaden’s dribble on the left flank. Though, Philogene-Bidace’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 has become a familiar sight for U23 head coach Mark Delaney, but Philogene-Bidace is also more than capable of simply running beyond his marker when space is afforded on the wing.
His explosive speed is hard to manage if not to deal with altogether. Philogene-Bidace has explosive power in his legs which 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 Philogene-Bidace 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 when sprinting and so, with good mechanics, the athlete can run faster. We can conclude that from Philogene-Bidace’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 the 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 skill against Doncaster Rovers is worthy of taking centre stage on any Premier League player’s YouTube montage, but whilst Philogene-Bidace is still learning his trade, and indeed adapting to men’s football at least in first-team training this season, he can clearly utilise an instinctive ability to outwit his opponent.
Technical skills in abundance
In this instance, Philogene-Bidace 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, Philogene-Bidace flicks the ball over his head before collecting it in space on the other side.
His ability to take a first touch and remove a defender out of the game is a massive bonus to Villa’s attacking armoury, with defenders invariably uncertain whether to drop off and let Philogene-Bidace advance further into the final third, or mark tighter and risk being outwitted with his quick feet and skill.
Philogene-Bidace’s former coach, Abdulla was keen to highlight what a confident player he is. He 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 Philogene-Bidace 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 again, the first touch to shift the ball to increase the probability of scoring is key in this move. Philogene-Bidace not only had the awareness to execute the skill but the ability to pull it off under the pressure of onrushing 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 U23 form into a first-team environment, he will be able to prove that his development can be fast-tracked into making his senior debut within the next 18 months.
Now we’ve outlined the key themes of Philogene-Bidace’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, Philogene-Bidace 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, being the right-back and right-winger double up to limit the room in which Villa’s winger has to manoeuvre in and ultimately progress past the half-way line. Infield, a City midfielder blocks Philogene-Bidace’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, Philogene-Bidace 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 of 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 Philogene-Bidace 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 Philogene-Bidace’s composure and skill acquisition, his backheel assist against Derby proves it the best. You could watch the clip 100 times and still struggle to see how he’s picked out a teammate surrounded by five Derby defenders, all crowded around the ball.
Fending off a couple of midfielders is the first impressive part of Philogene-Bidace’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 Philogene-Bidace’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 confidence on the pitch can offer a false sense of security but the sheer level of quality to master this pass is outstanding.
Philogene-Bidace’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 the skill to deceive a centre-back is another.
Usually operating off the left-wing, Philogene-Bidace 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, Philogene-Bidace’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.
Having trained with Smith’s first-team for much of this campaign, Philogene-Bidace has already been exposed to the tactical and physical rigours of Premier League football – his development will continue to be monitored in the coming months with a bright future ahead at the club.