It’s blog time again, and this time the turn of one of the young ‘uns, sixth-form student Jack Lincoln, who looks at how Billy Gilmour’s arrival may trigger a change in City’s approach…
Billy Gilmour’s season-long loan deal to City from the current European Champions, Chelsea, followed hot on the heels of the 20-year-old’s man of the match performance against England for his native Scotland. The young Scot stole the headlines with an assured midfield performance.
Now he will be plying his trade in yellow and green next season, I want to analyse how this may affect City’s dynamic and formation going into the new season. It’s worth also mentioning that the club is still looking for another midfielder as well as being hopeful that Oliver Skipp will return to Carrow Road for another season.
A name that is reportedly high on Norwich City’s list for a well-built, combative holding midfielder is Phillip Billing from Bournemouth, of whom Stuart Webber, and Daniel Farke especially, are thought to be big admirers.
As a result, one option we could see is Farke revert to is a 4-3-3, with Gilmour and Kenny McLean sat in front of someone like Skipp or, possibly, Billing. This change wouldn’t be new to Gilmour as that’s where he operated for the majority of his time under Frank Lampard when he made his breakthrough into Chelsea’s first team. One of his most credited performances came in a three-man midfield against Liverpool in a 2-0 win for Chelsea in the FA Cup before the pandemic halted football.
However, Gilmour has also operated in a two-man midfield under Thomas Tuchel, and so we may see Gilmour overtake McLean in the pecking order, on the left side, alongside a more defensive midfielder. Despite not being particularly tall, the Scotsman is tough-tackling, aggressive and commanding in midfield, as displayed against England.
So, there are an array of options open to Daniel Farke, although I don’t expect him to utilise Gilmour in a similar role to that which Skipp shone in last campaign. I see him wanting Gilmour alongside a more physical presence, similar to the dynamic we saw between McLean and Skipp last season.
Linking once again to his more than impressive showing in the FA Cup against Liverpool and Samuel Seaman’s piece on the Scottish international, among Gilmour’s best attributes are his press resistance and his ability to retain possession for his side, this despite the limited amount of game time he’s received in his short professional career thus far.
He proved all of the above in abundance in the Liverpool game when faced with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool’s notoriously aggressive ‘gegenpressing’ style; showing composure, confidence and bravery to play out of danger and progress Frank Lampard’s side up the pitch, taking upwards of three Liverpool players out of the game on several occasions.
Some City fans have expressed reservations about the physical side of Gilmour’s game – mainly due to his five-foot-seven stature – but those reservations are unnecessary. In part, I feel this concern is due to the club’s statement heading into this transfer window that they were looking for more naturally physical assets to bolster the squad, not just through height and build, but also based on sprints per 90 and other physical statistics.
On face value alone it’s evident that Gilmour loves biting into challenges and isn’t afraid to get stuck into any opponent, and his proficiency with his pressing is another key element to his game; his pressures per 90 revealed themselves to be much higher in comparison to other top tier central midfielders in the Premier League, bettering the likes of Fabinho and Declan Rice, and only 0.2 pressures behind one of the best in the league – Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips.
It’s an excellent coup from the club and most definitely boosts our survival chances. It also sends out a message of the calibre of players we are looking to attract now. A City side with Billy Gilmour in it is a City side that has much greater chances of Premier League survival.