Despite losing Jack Grealish in the summer, some shrewd transfer business had Aston Villa fans expecting to challenge for the European places this season. Instead, Villa is 16th and has lost 5 games in a row. This horrible run saw Dean Smith sacked and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard appointed as manager. Gerrard became an icon at Rangers, leading them to their 55th league title but has now left that all behind to prove himself in English football. We take a look at how Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa may line up.
How Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa Will Line Up
Taking Inspiration From Liverpool
Everyone knows about Gerrard’s connection with Liverpool and while watching Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool do something he could never achieve as a player, Gerrard obviously saw things he liked about their tactical approach. Gerrard’s Rangers lined up in a 4-3-3 formation just like Klopp’s Reds but that wasn’t the only similarity. Rangers also relied on a full-back as their main source of creativity. James Tavenier already has 8 assists to his name and had 9 last year, alongside 12 goals. This is similar to the way Liverpool relies on Trent Alexander-Arnold for assists. The rangers’ midfield was also very workmanlike and wasn’t required to score or assist. Apart from Joe Aribo, who sometimes played on the wings, no Rangers midfielder scored 5 league goals last season. Again this is similar to Liverpool who often struggles for goals from midfield.
How This System May Look At Aston Villa
During Dean Smith’s final weeks in charge, Villa tried a 5 at the back-formation. This was used to try and fit both Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins in the same line-up and maintain defensive stability at the same time. It didn’t work and Villa eventually ditched the system but the damage was already done. Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa needs to quickly find a system that works and stick to it. This will likely be the 4-3-3 he used at Rangers. Here’s how it may work at Villa.
In goal obviously, Emiliano Martinez keeps his place. Martinez hasn’t been his best in recent weeks but is still a top-class goalkeeper and Villa will hope he refinds the form that helped Argentina win the Copa America. In defence, Ezri Konsa, and Tyrone Mings will partner each other at centre-back. Mings has been heavily criticised this season but a new manager should mean a clean slate for everyone and he is still Villa’s captain. Matt Targett and Matty Cash will be the full-backs but the pair have only registered one assist between them this season so if Gerrard wants creativity from his full-backs, he may need to look for better options in January. In midfield, Villa will play without an attacking midfielder so Emiliano Buendia will have to find playing time in the front three. Douglas Luiz will play as a holding midfielder with John Mcginn and youngster Jacob Ramsey completing the midfield. These players will be tasked with getting the ball to the attackers, which is where this Villa side gets interesting.
Bringing in Danny Ings meant Dean Smith had to fit two top-class strikers in his starting line-up. Smith just couldn’t find the right combination and it’s one of the main reasons he was sacked. Watkins and Ings have just 5 goals between them and no one else in Villa’s attack are firing either. Steven Gerrard knows how to fit two strikers in the same team, he did it at Rangers and his system allowed strikers to play on the wings with success. Rangers’ full-backs pushed up and provided width, which allowed the wingers to play narrow, basically as strikers. As recent as the 31st of October, Striker Fashion Sakala scored a hat-trick playing on the left wing. This means Watkins and Ings can play together in the front three, with Watkins on the wing and one of Leon Bailey (when fit), Buendia, Anwar El Ghazi, Trezeguet, or Bertrand Traore partnering them in the attack. It is important Gerrard is consistent in his team selection so partnerships can form and this may mean some of Villa’s attacking depth will leave in January.
Gerrard Looking to Land Liverpool Job Next
Overall a new system and manager are exciting for Villa but they must be aware that the Aston Villa job isn’t Gerrard’s final aim. He’s once again signed a contract till 2024 when Klopp’s Liverpool contract expires and definitely has his sights set on one day managing The Reds. Gerrard must succeed at Villa first however as getting sacked would rule out any chance of his dream move happening.
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