BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Marc Guehi says he is still learning in the Premier League, despite having played in all seven of Crystal Palace’s top-level games this season since his summer transfer from Chelsea.
“Every game has been a learning curve for me,” said Guehi before becoming England U21 captain in their UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifier against Slovenia tomorrow night.
“Understanding the margins in the game and that the league is very, very ruthless, that any mishap, mistake or if you get out of position at some point is definitely punished. I feel like I’m always adapting, learning every game, trying to understand. I don’t think I have fully adapted but I am still young, I still have a lot to learn and I can only hope that I can continue to adapt as I have been.
“I have faced fantastic players like [Mohamed] Salah, [Sadio] Mane and [Harry] Kane, so I’m savoring the moment that I have now and I hope I can go on and play against more of these better players.
“I love to play football, every chance I can,” he added when asked how many club players and international matches are expected to play each season. “It helps when you’re my age and you don’t have as many injuries, you feel pretty fresh and young so you can go out there and have as many matches as you can and for me that’s what I need, to have good races. It really helps with experience and better knowledge of the game – that’s what you want.
In all but 33 league minutes this season, Guehi has lined up in the center of the palace defense with another new recruit, Joachim Andersen, and the ex-Chelsea player is taking advantage of the new partnership, which has seen two clean sheets. until now.
“It’s going well, we get used to each other’s games and understand how we both want to play and what roles we have in this partnership,” said Guehi. “I really appreciate it and hopefully with many more games to come we can consolidate that and get more clean sheets and more wins.”
Part of that keeping the sheets clean comes from Guehi’s work with England at international level with new Under-21 manager Lee Carsley calling on former Premier League defenders Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole – a former Palace player – as coaches.
“From the last camp, from the first day, it’s a very cliché thing to talk about clean sheets as a defender and wanting to do it, but they really got us through how much it means to them and how much it should mean for us as defenders too, ”said Guehi, who spent time on loan at Swansea last season.
“It is really a platform for [England U21s]. There are so many instances where we do cross-blocking and cross-positioning and shoot preparation exercises and a lot of communication, what they want, they really shared a lot with us.
“As a defender, to have these two who have done so much in the Premier League and in their footballing careers, to coach and share their knowledge with us is just fantastic.”
This learning was supplemented by another former Arsenal legend, Palace boss Patrick Vieira, with Guehi happy with the direction the Eagles are taking.
“At Palace we are in a process where we all take into consideration what the manager brings to the table and how he wants us to play,” he said. “I think it works really well. We all gel well together. There is a little bit of frustration there because we didn’t get the results we wanted but the most important thing is this process and that we play well, create chances and look for a strong team for the to come up.
Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher, who has scored two goals this season and knows Guehi well, grew up with him at Chelsea academy.
“He’s a fantastic player, someone who already has experience in the Premier League with his time at West Brom, so he’s used to the league,” said the 21-year-old. “I’m not at all surprised that he did so well. He brings so much energy to the team, that form of goal that he now shows and replicates. I’m sure he will continue that for the season for us.
“He doesn’t want to leave me alone,” Guehi joked when asked about South London Press if he does not manage to escape his teammate, with whom he plays in club and internationally. “Conor is a good friend, someone I grew up with and really enjoy playing with.
“He’s doing great right now and I’m just really happy to be playing with him right now but sometimes we saw each other so much it’s like, okay, for this week I just don’t want to talk to you, and we’ll talk to each other next week just because I’ve seen you too much. ”But it’s always good to hang out with Conor.
And part of that time is ‘downtime’, when the players relax and turn away from the football, but for Guehi and Gallagher the competitive element is still there, through table tennis.
“I think Conor will be honest and say that I am the best table tennis player,” Guehi told the South London Press with a smile. “It’s pretty even, but I’m definitely the best table tennis player and won most of the games, but it’s a really important part of the game, that downtime, that makes you forget about the things.”
With Guehi’s mind in view of England and leading his team to Slovenia tomorrow and then back to Andorra on Monday, he told the South London Press to go from one of the youngest players in the SE25 locker room to one of the oldest with England, how his leadership skills adapt and what he learns.
“I think it’s a bit of a mix,” he said. “There are loads of leaders at Palace, so many leaders. But there are so many leaders here with England.
“There are so many voices in the team in England and it’s quite similar at Palace. I’m just trying to learn from straight sets and try to be the leader that I want to be. It’s just fantastic for me to be a part of both.
PHOTOS: KEITH GILLARD