When chatting with Marc Guehi at the Crystal Palace training ground, his thoughtful and self-assured nature makes you double-check your grades to make sure he’s only 21.
It has been a whirlwind of several months for the young center-back. Five days after his 21st birthday in July, Guehi signed a permanent contract at Crystal Palace, leaving his childhood club Chelsea.
The move offered the opportunity to play under new manager Patrick Vieira, and Guehi has fitted in so well in Palace defense, it’s like coming from the club’s own academy.
After two successful years on loan at Swansea, Guehi has returned to known territory in south London, and the defender agrees the transition has gone almost smoothly.
“One hundred percent, and that comes from the staff around me, the players around me – and the fans have been appreciating me since I’ve been here. Everyone has made it really easy for me,” he said. he said in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports ahead of Monday’s meeting with Arsenal.
“I know the area pretty well, I played for Cray Wanderers when I was young so I would say it’s kind of like a homecoming. It’s been fantastic.
“It was always a difficult decision to leave your childhood club where you have played for so long. Leaving was difficult, but for me I thought it was the right decision to come to a club like Palace, where management to leave is to give players like me the opportunity to live their dream and express themselves.
“I’m really happy to be here and like I said, I think it was the right decision.
“It was the attraction of playing Premier League football on a regular basis that attracted me, the appeal of the manager and the fact that this club is a really stable club.
“They made them a real Premier League club and they’ve been playing in the league for a long time now. And since I’ve been here the fans have been fantastic with me so I’ve really enjoyed my time so far.”
The Premier League experience isn’t much bigger than that of Vieira, who has already overseen quite a turnaround at Palace. There is a buzz of excitement around Selhurst Park, with the Eagles having lost just two Premier League games this season to title opening favorites Chelsea and Liverpool, taking seven points in their opening seven games.
The statistics also confirm this. Vieira’s Palace have an average possession of around 50.1%, down from 39.9% last season, the third-lowest rate in the division. Palace’s passing accuracy also fell from 76.1% to 81%, with fewer shots faced and goals conceded per game. There has also been an increase in shots at the other end – now an average of 11 in every Premier League exit.
“He’s been fantastic to me,” Guehi said of Vieira. “He really helped me a lot and the back office staff who were fantastic.
“I’m learning every day – how to behave as a young player who will hopefully become a leader for this team, develop my game individually and things I need to work on.
“But he’s just a really nice guy, that’s the main thing, he’s a really approachable person and he wants to share his knowledge with everyone.
“It was an interesting start. Losing only to Chelsea and Liverpool, people might see it as a pretty good start, but with the manager coming in there has been a real change in mindset, or since I’ve been here from anyway.
“As players we push each other and expect more from each other and I think that’s fantastic. We come into games believing we can win, and right now that’s a process and we all learn that.
“It’s tough in the games we haven’t won, we think we could have won a lot more and I hope that in this process we get the wins that we think we deserve.”
Perhaps one of the keys to Guehi’s success – aside from his own talent – has been a constant central partner. Former Fulham defender Joachim Anderson has signed a permanent contract with Lyon as the duo have started in the last six Premier League games.
“I think so [the partnership] is going well. It’s a little disappointing that we haven’t won so many games, but we definitely have a good understanding and we also learn from each other.
“I’m really learning a lot from him, he’s got a lot of experience – he recently qualified with Denmark for the World Cup – so I really like playing with him.
“He played in the Premier League, he knows what the league is all about. It makes it a lot easier for me to have someone next to me who understands the players we’re up against and the league as well.”
England U21 captain
If an impressive start to life in the Premier League is not enough, Lee Carsley appointed Guehi as his new England U21 captain in September, two years after his first appearance for the team.
This honor is the defender’s latest success at the international junior level. He was part of the team that won the U17 World Cup in 2017 and finished second at the U17 European Championships. At the Euros, Guehi was named to the tournament squad.
Reflecting on his new captain, he said: “It’s fantastic. I’m privileged and honored. I didn’t really expect it to be honest, but I relish every opportunity I have to put on the shirt and to wear the captain’s armband.
He’s a player I’ve known for two or three years and I was immediately impressed by his maturity, his way of talking about the game and of influencing the players off the pitch. The example he gives in the field as well as here made him an easy choice. We have a lot of leaders in the squad and in terms of how he handled the game in the Championship for Swansea and now at Crystal Palace, he was a player who was ready to take on that responsibility.
“I am grateful that Lee Carsley chose me and it is a real stepping stone for me in my career to have this distinction. I will do my best.
“I think I’m very attentive. I want to learn, I want to develop and I think that’s the main thing. I could sit here and say I’m an amazing leader and stuff, but I think that’s the main thing. paying attention is the main thing I want to improve myself at this point in my career.
“I hope one day [enough to play for the senior team], but I’m really focused on the U21s right now. I’m really happy to have this opportunity and wear the armband, so that’s really the main focus right now, on the present rather than hopefully the near future. “
Learn in Swansea
Guehi’s first foray into first-team football came at Swansea City, spending 18 months on loan to the Welsh side under the guidance of former England U17 manager Steve Cooper.
It was also a real whirlwind. He has spent much of his time playing in an empty Liberty Stadium due to the Covid-19 pandemic and has been in two play-off campaigns – sadly losing twice to now-promoted Brentford.
“It is absolutely crucial for any young player to play in men’s football at a high level,” said Guehi.
“For me it was Swansea and they were fantastic with me. I played a lot of games and almost got promoted with them, but I really enjoyed that. My advice to everyone is d ‘go there if you get the chance to play because it is the most important thing.
“Some of the players there helped me a lot. I can name a lot like Wayne Routledge, Andre Ayew, Matt Grimes, so many of them have helped me to be where I am today.
We will prepare as usual – it’s another game. They are a really great team with fantastic players. We’re definitely going to prepare in the right way, prepare ourselves mentally to make sure that at the time of the game we are ready for whatever they throw at us.
“The main thing I learned was that the games are the most important, making sure you’re ready to compete at the highest level, but it was also a real family setting there. world was really close, you knew what was going on with everyone, so that’s a lot of what i took away from there.
“It’s hard for me to say it was hard [during the Covid-19 pandemic] because there were so many people who had lost their jobs and were going through very difficult times. For me, I was still able to go out and play football and do what I love.
“Sometimes it’s hard not to see your family, but I was really lucky to be able to play football and to have the opportunity, whether there were fans or not, it was just being able to do something, while others weren’t able to. “
It’s that kind of selfless nature that will help Guehi thrive in an increasingly exciting Crystal Palace squad, as the Eagles’ improvement under Vieira continues to take shape.