Having lost five back to back games in the Premier League, Dean Smith was relieved of his duties as Aston Villa manager. Following that, Steven Gerrard was appointed manager at Villa Park on a two-year contract. He arrives back in the Premier League, having done some exemplary work at Rangers. The England international led Rangers to their first league title since 2012.
The Liverpool legend must skip celebrations, as the task that lays ahead of him seems gigantic. The Premier League is a different ball game as compared to the Scottish Premiership. Here are the five problems that Steven Gerrard will encounter at Villa Park.
5) Replacing Jack Grealish
Jack Grealish’s €100 million move to Manchester City, was a hard pill to swallow for the Aston Villa faithful. Grealish played a crucial role in Villa’s resurgence from the Championship. The England international led Villa back to the Premier League and was also pivotal in their survival last season. Everything around Aston Villa’s play revolved around the England international. Grealish was monumental in driving the team forward and creating chances for his teammates.
After his departure, recruits like Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey have just been a flash in the pan. Grealish being such an integral part of the Aston Villa setup, implementing a new style of play will be a tough task for Steven Gerrard. Furthermore, finding a replacement to match Grealish’s attributes will be a hard day’s work for the Liverpool legend.
4) Creating balance in the midfield
The midfield duo of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz that was so impressive last season seems to be falling apart this season. An injury to Douglas Luiz has disrupted the balance in the middle of the park for Villa. Most of the teams this season have bypassed the Aston Villa midfield without dropping a sweat. This was again evident in their last encounter with Southampton.
The lack of a deep-lying midfielder and a creative force in the midfield will hurt Steven Gerrard this season. Buendia who was brought in to play the crucial number 10 role has failed to make any impact. The Argentine international only has a goal and an assist to his name this season. Other players like McGinn, Makamba, and Young have looked like strangers on the field. But there is some hope for the future for Gerrard as there are a host of young talents at Aston Villa. The returning Douglas Luiz will also boost the morale of the manager as well as the players.
3) Tightening up the defence
Whether Steven Gerrard plays a back five or a back four, he needs to sort out the leaky defence at Villa Park. The defence has already conceded 20 goals in the 11 league matches this season. They have shipped one goal every 30 minutes.
For a team that is not scoring much going forward, tightening up the backline seems to be the need of the hour. The back four of Tyrone Mings, Axel Tuanzebe, Matty Cash, and Matt Targett seem to have been overplayed by Dean Smith. Rotating the backline will be crucial for ther new manager to keep the defense fit and firing. Having said that, the club do not have many reinforcements in the back.
Aston Villa has spent all their money acquired from Grealish’s transfer in strengthening their attack.The Liverpool legend will surely be looking for defensive reinforcements in the winter transfer window.
2) Reviving the players’ morales
On paper, Aston Villa has got some of the most exciting players in Europe at their disposal. On the contrary, it’s been a different story on the pitch. Tyrone Mings whose sensational form last season earned him a call up to England’s Euro 2020 squad, seems to be a different player this season. Emiliano Martinez who was instrumental in Argentina’s Copa America success is conceding goals left right and center this term.
Cash and Targett who had started the season brilliantly seem to be losing their confidence in their abilities. Buendia, who single-handedly brought Norwich back to the Premier League seems lost in the Villa setup. Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins have not been clinical enough in front of the goal. Leon Bailey is finding it hard to weave his magic at Villa Park. The man-management skills of Steven Gerrard will be under scrutiny at Villa Park.
1) Qualifying for Europe
No doubt, Aston Villa had one of the most successful transfer windows in their history. They invested heavily in stellar talents like Buendia, Bailey, Ings, etc. On paper, Villa were favorites to qualify for the Europa League next season.
At this moment, Villa is fighting relegation and the European spot seems far away from their reach. Aston Villa is only two places above the relegation zone. The Birmingham-based club has only picked up 10 points from their 11 league matches. Having lost seven of their 11 league matches, worrying signs are starting to creep up at Villa Park.
With still 27 matches to play, Steven Gerrard needs to turn around the fortune of the club. Failing to qualify for Europe will be considered a failure at Villa Park. Villa is currently six points adrift of the Europa League spots. The Liverpool legend’s biggest task at Villa Park will be guiding the team to European football.