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Time For Gerrard To Stop Talking A Good Game & Actually Manage One

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Where has it all gone wrong for Steven Gerrard’s – sorry, the Aston Villa side?

Having tasted success in the two horse race that is the Scottish Premiership, Chief Executive Officer Christian Purslow decided that the barely experienced former Liverpool skipper and England midfielder was the perfect person to replace one of our own, Dean Smith, as he hit a sticky spell that included the sale of the absolutely key Jack Grealish amidst a pre season heavily interrupted by a Covid outbreak.

Purslow’s decision has not proven to be absolutely genius, leaving even more fans wondering why we didn’t go for experience and somebody who had already shown that they could take a club to the next level.

Credit where’s due though, Gerrard quickly ended the run of defeats we suffered during Smith’s final games in charge, and we saw good signs of the style of play he wanted from the team moving forward. But as quickly as those signs appeared, they then disappeared and our performances definitely got worse and results quickly followed. Once that, roughly a first month, was over (dare we say new manager bounce), the organisation went the same way as our attacking intent. It evaporated. Game on game, we became even more inept, even more useless and even more uninspiring. Solid players under Smith seemed to crumble and lose further form under Gerrard – others picked up and showed us more, but it wasn’t enough to stem what was clearly a downward turn, a downward turn Gerrard could not fix. This was despite a clear change in our transfer plan, as Gerrard was allowed to bring in Lucas Digne and Philippe Coutinho, but our form in the second half of the season didn’t really change.

Another noticeable change was his after match press interviews. Once cheeky, and light hearted, they predictably moved to ‘I carry the can’ and then without naming specific players, he he gave us a first hint of potential dressing room unrest, when he explained some in the group wouldn’t be here after the summer unless they pulled their proverbial socks up and helped him, as he’d simply replace them when the summer transfer window opened.

With some players simply undroppable regardless of form, others were unpickable and many were left wondering if we had the green shoots of a new bomb squad forming. The overriding concern was simply the lack of a defined playing style as the 2021/22 campaign came to a close. An issue you couldn’t throw at Mikel Arteta who had real off pitch issues when he took charge of Arsenal, an issue you couldn’t throw at Graham Potter after he’d rocked up at Brighton and certainly something you couldn’t throw at Patrick Vieira once he’d got comfortable at Crystal Palace. That’s not to say they are perfect, those teams have their own noticeable flaws but you at least know how they want to play.

Gerrard’s strongest supporters assured the more concerned fans that this would be addressed when he had a full pre-season and was able to get more of his own players in. We now find ourselves at that point, but performances in our pre-season friendlies didn’t really inspire confidence that Gerrard had now found his Villa way, and with more arrivals during the window, it’s not unfair to say we looked more disjointed than ever as Scott Parker seemed to effectively out think Gerrard on the tactics front in our season opener against newly promoted Bournemouth.

1-0 down after three minutes with a team selection that few fans would’ve picked, and despite dominating the ball, our main tactic seemed to be aimlessly punt it into the box despite usually only having one player in the penalty area. Even when we had more pace and creativity on the pitch, the tactic failed to change and in pushing up so high, we allowed Bournemouth to crowd us out and in the end, we failed to draw them out onto us so we could utilise the pace of Ollie Watkins and Cameron Archer to try and get in behind them. 2-0 against a newly promoted side was not how we wanted to cap ‘Stevie’s first full pre-season’.

Six wins in the last 23 and only two wins in the last 12 speaks volumes, and with a win percentage now worse than Smith’s final year in the job, pressure is rightly rising and some would say Gerrard’s own media reactions show things are not happy behind the scenes – take the Tyrone Mings debacle for example. Such a late captaincy change this summer, and bizarre comments about his fitness and when he’ll next play – Mings might be the new Morgan Sanson – but I can’t be alone in having Tim Sherwood and Paul Lambert flash backs here can I?

Now I won’t deny I wasn’t sold on the appointment to begin with, particularly if we wanted to ensure we pushed ourselves to the next level after Smith, but I was slowly being won over at the beginning with the performances and small (but regular) improvements we seemed to be making, but it’s inconceivable that we have now fallen even further from DS’s darkest days and even though there were massive questions for Gerrard to answer given how we ended last season, Bournemouth shows there are major questions to be asked when it comes to his approach, team selections, tactics and ultimately what the hell we actually do on the training pitch – other than produce nice shiny PR content for social media.

With massive price increases this year, Villa have already shown they failed to read a ‘real life room’ and with all the talk of Stadium expansion, surely Purslow knows that would be a foolish investment for our owners if performances and dug out management remains this inept.

Some will say it’s a one game overreaction – I’d say look at our run of form since last January (which many who wanted DS gone encouraged the likes of me to do). Two wins (against relegated sides) and three draws in the last 12 games – seven defeats tells its own story, it’s relegation form and Gerrard has now had his pre-season and now has more of his own players in and that hasn’t changed anything – so when do we stop questioning the players and look elsewhere?

We were happy to after five defeats on the spin (despite the valid excuses that should’ve given DS a bit more time – but not a lot more time to turn things around), but we didn’t after four defeats on the spin despite the overall form, and Gerrard doesn’t even have credit in the bank here. When he talks about needing ‘quality’ in the team after Bournemouth, maybe he should begin by focusing on a workable game plan that suits our strengths and suits our qualities, rather than showing himself to be a big named chequebook manager who still can’t get them performing together.

Gerrard has long talked a good game, instead of being spiky and short in media interviews and seemingly fostering disagreements with players behind the scenes in an attempt to stamp his authority on the team, maybe he should ensure we play like a team for a change.


Purslow's Experiment Is Over

Purslow's Experiment Is Over

Let's See Where We Are In A Couple Of Months

Let's See Where We Are In A Couple Of Months

Nonsense, He Needs The Season

Nonsense, He Needs The Season

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  • Colin says:

    I will go with the two or three months option because that will coincide with the next window if we’re not showing much improvement by then we will know it hasn’t worked out and has to change, it’s big business nowadays and given what has been spent consistent losses are not an option?
    Think SG has made a massive mistake with his treatment of Mings and Buendia and I’ve been very surprised at his tactics or lack of.
    We can only hope that it turns around, early days but Everton is a must win to get us back on track.
    And please no more talk about Barkley been there and got the T shirt.

  • Tony J says:

    Purslow was, again, seduced by the big ex-player name. Stevie G was always a Christian favourite (along with Fernando Torres) during his time at Anfield.

    Of course, Gerrard will get some time, especially with Purslow as advocate. Is he the right manager though? Absolutely not.

  • Villain82 says:

    O’Leary called us fickle. Bear in mind it took Klopp 5 or 6 windows to get the team playing how he wanted. Gerrard performed well at Rangers. Villa is a step up for him. He needs time for the team to gel, time to get rid of the dross and a fair crack at the whip.

    There are a lot of distractions. CC being the latest (good riddance!). We need to get off SG’s case and give him time. It’s not like Mourinho is gonna walk into B6 if Gerrard leaves.

    I noticed that avfc.COM is listed for sale. I wonder if NSWE are gonna invest some of the Carney money and buy it? If they want AVFC to be a “global brand”, then .co,uk doesn’t cut the mustard.

    • Peter Marks says:

      Gerrard was a great Player But as a manager has an overated opinion of himself.He does not hide his dislike of certain players for example Mings. Mings has been selected for England but is not in Gerrards team. He has spent money on players no better than the ones previous to his arrival and most of them too old. The first move we should now make
      is to dispense of him. Dean Smith got sacked for losing 4 matches on the trot this was after he got us promoted and finishing halfway up the Premier League. What’s Gerrard done,14th in the Premier League and an overall record worse than Dean Smith.
      I think he should go now.I have supported Villa for nearly 80 years and know an overated Manager when I see one.Thank you

  • Peter Rollason says:

    I don’t even think he has talked a good game. He blames lack of quality – needing new players , constantly lays it on the line (shape up or get out) which is now way to manage an admin team let alone an elite multi million pound top flight football club.

    How about developing a team spirit instead of constantly divide & rule.

  • ItAin'tAGameAnymore says:

    Too much spin not enough win at all levels of the club. Don’t believe the situation is improved by having a Liverpool old boys club managing it. The only thing they had to do with the current success of Liverpool is one of them sold it to the current owners.

    Easy to say it’s the 1st game, don’t get carried away. So I’ll give Stevie G four games to show improvement. The issue being I see the same problems in the team as at the end of last season, worse that I do not see any player has improved under the current coaching regime.

    Which is in stark contrast to what I see at Newcastle for example. Think Eddie Howe actually takes training sessions, certainly doesn’t leave set pieces to a specialist set piece coach. Interestingly NUFC didn’t concede two goals from free kicks over the weekend either.

    Finally a new “bomb squad” has to be a huge warning sign that something is still wrong.

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