While much of the talk at Aston Villa has been around Carney Chukwuemeka – which is understandable given his superb performances in the FA Youth Cup last season – Jaden Philogene-Bidace could well be the youngster to become the club’s secret weapon this year.
Dean Smith’s side have a bit of a golden generation coming through the academy system at the moment, with the likes of Louie Barry and Chukwuemeka leading the charge, but Philogene-Bidace is already showing real glimpses of being perhaps the most naturally exciting talent of the lot.
The 19-year-old was in fine form last year for the club’s under-23s, scoring five goals in just 14 games at Premier League 2 level, as well as providing three assists – that’s not to mention the superb hat-trick he scored on his England under-19 debut last November either.
His former coach Ahmed Abdulla has raved about his ability as an out-and-out winger, and judging by the coach’s comments, he seems perfectly ready to grab his opportunity in senior football.
Abdulla said: “He can come inside or go on the outside. The model winger. He hugs the touchline and can beat his man. (He’s) Very confident and very light on his feet and skips past tackles, not one of them that gets hit and goes down. He bounces off tackles. He’s very strong and outstanding in one-v-ones.”
Hailed by the Birmingham Mail’s Ashley Preece as someone who is “unplayable at times” following an impressive performance against Wycombe Wanderers this week, Philogene-Bidace was at his magical best when Villa trounced Barrow in the Carabao Cup second round recently.
While Cameron Archer no doubt grabbed the headlines for his impressive hat-trick, it was Philogene-Bidace who really took the game to the League Two side, constantly seeking to take players on and cause havoc in the opposition defence.
That kind of trickery and speed can be a real difference-maker in the Premier League when sometimes you need to rely upon a piece of magic from an individual rather than trying to carve out a great team goal.
Like Leon Bailey and even Jack Grealish before him, Philogene-Bidace could give Villa a different dimension, especially off the bench when opposition defenders are tired and aren’t going to be as clued upon him compared to a more established first-team star.
While Chukwuemeka may be gaining some steam as the next breakout star at Villa, it’s the 19-year-old Philogene-Bidace who might end up making the more impactful impression this season in the Premier League.