“He’s a world-class player, Billy,” said Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn without hesitation. “He’s going through a wee rough patch at Norwich, obviously frustrated not to be playing. But when he’s in the Scotland jersey, he’s always at the top of his game.”
That assessment was delivered after Scotland’s 3-2 World Cup qualifying win over Isreal on Saturday, one in which Billy Gilmour truly took command of Steve Clarke’s side. It was the 20-year-old who, in the second half, drove Scotland forward through a combination of subtle passing, tenacious tackling, fearless running with the ball, and sheer force of will.
Gilmour’s maturity and composure, no matter the stage, is beyond doubt. From his man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup in March 2020 to his standout display for Scotland against England in the summer’s European Championship, the young midfielder is never overawed.
That, coupled with his innate ability, is why Chelsea have such high hopes for Gilmour. Current Blues head coach Thomas Tuchel is an admirer too, it’s why the German stopped the academy graduate from leaving on loan immediately after his appointment in January.
“I wanted him to stay because he has a big impact in training games and his quality is obvious,” Tuchel said during the second half of last season.
“He has a lot of qualities. He is very self-confident in our training games, is very strong on the ball, is a very strong passer, and is very smart in finding positions. He has all abilities, and a physical ability, to play for us.”
Gilmour did feature under Tuchel but not enough, no surprise given he was up against N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic for a place in Chelsea’s double six. And that is why this summer it was decided the best thing for Gilmour was to leave Stamford Bridge on loan for the first time.
He wasn’t short of potential suitors but Tuchel, who is understood to have taken a big interest as to where Gilmour would spend the 2021/22 campaign, felt Gilmour would be best placed under the watch of Daniel Farke at Norwich City.
The move made sense given Farke and Tuchel have a strong bond forged during their time together at Borussia Dortmund.
“I had a brilliant relationship with Thomas,” Farke explained in an interview with the Daily Mail in 2019. “We spoke a lot, not only on the surface, but really deep about football and our work.”
A little under two months into the season, however, and there are reasons for concern. Norwich have lost six of their seven Premier League matches thus far and Gilmour has been an unused substitute in three of the last four top-flight games.
Farke stated last month part of the reason for that was concerns over Gilmour’s durability given he spent most of last term on the sidelines. That in itself is understandable, yet it does not explain entirely why the Scot has played just 90 of the last 360 minutes available in the Premier League.
There is no doubt Gilmour hasn’t produced his best in a Norwich shirt so far, although given how easily the Canaries have been pushed aside by opponents, that isn’t a shock. Gilmour thrives with the ball but isn’t getting as much of it at Carrow Road.
In his limited Premier League outings last term for Chelsea, Gilmour averaged 74.1 passes per 90, per FBRef. That has dropped to 50 per 90 at Norwich and more than half of those have come in his own defensive third.
It is worth noting, though, that Gilmour’s shot-creating actions per 90 have risen to 1.54 per 90 while at Norwich while he is also completing more dribbles per 90 (0.77), an underrated part of his game. His defensive output has also increased to 4.26 tackles and interceptions per 90.
Gilmour’s awareness and work out of possession will be honed at Norwich. The adversity Farke’s side already find themselves in should also prove beneficial, especially given Gilmour has only ever known success at Chelsea. But it’s difficult to envisage his on-the-ball style being drastically finessed at Carrow Road.
Perhaps that isn’t a huge issue, though. As Gilmour showcased with Scotland on Saturday, he possesses the ability to dictate and direct play at the top level, to take control of a midfield and alter the course of a game in favour of his side.
And that is what Chelsea and Tuchel should take notice of and remember when Gilmour returns to the club next summer.
Source by Football London