Sort of pains me to write that, but now Gerrard’s in charge we’ll all get behind him and hope he’s successful. The club is bigger than any one man, after all. Naturally, he’ll have my support, for what it’s worth, but it’s the support of Compass and Purslow that matters. For now, anyway.

During the last week, everyone’s been off frantically getting up to speed on Gerrard, Beale, and Rangers. Largely because the SPL isn’t worth paying any attention to if you don’t have links to Scotland or one of the clubs, and not many really know what’s been going on up there.

Doesn’t mean Gerrard isn’t a good manager, but we’re talking apples and oranges so far. He might be a smashing success anywhere, a generational midfielder for club and country with a huge will to win and an apparent appetite for studying the game. You’d imagine players will have respect for him, initially at least, and that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Villa’s biggest weakness: midfield. And we can’t forget he knows as well as anyone what’s it’s like to play at the level he’s moving up to.

We’ve all gone out and heard about a narrow 4-3-3. Forcing attacking play wide. Wide forwards tucked in and driving the channels, a two 10s concept, fullbacks overlapping for width. Wide midfielders tasked with pressing fullbacks, and a back line that supports attacking play. A ‘solid’ defense.

Now, apart from the nominal distribution of players, I’m not seeing a huge difference in philosophy from the way Smith wanted Villa play. When asked what Smith’s style is, I’ve pretty much ended up writing the previous paragraph, by and large, apart from the “two 10s” bit, though I’m not sure I haven’t seen it in practice. One would imagine if there is something to be fixed it will be in awareness, cohesion and execution. When Villa did Restart, they’d focused on being more solid at the back, after all.

Perhaps, in a 4-2-3-1, it’s been the fourth player (the ’10’) joining the front-line pressing that’s caused us issues and left the two behind more exposed. Break that initial press, and there’s lots of space to cover and play into. Perhaps it’s simply the lack of a true defensive midfielder with size, pace, and strength. Not that a DM needs to be big. We wanted Kalvin Phillips, after all, and he’s not half bad. Pace, aggression, and reading of the game often get you the same result. It’s about being able to get to the ball and snuff things out.

Perhaps the biggest difference will be that Gerrard can put a rocket up them and has no loyalties. He didn’t spend the money, so he won’t necessarily need to justify his purchases. Though I think it’s also fair to say that it seems Smith wasn’t really spending the money and didn’t have final say. He did, it would appear, identify players like Watkins, Konsa, and Cash. Mings and perhaps Targett. The rest, I don’t know. Will Gerrard hold more sway?

Based on the initial profile we’d been given for Villa’s recruitment, none of Traoré, Bailey or Sanson seem to fit the mold. But since we’ve barely seen Bailey and Sanson, that’s a bit moot other than that’s where the money’s been allocated. It took Bertrand about a season to start to come to grips with his defensive responsibilities. We’ve seen Bailey show a bit more understanding, but both are fairly lightweight. The upside is that they both have speed and quality on the ball. Sanson looked aggressive enough to give us a bit more bite.

So, perhaps we see Ollie out wide, which Smith said he didn’t want to do. I’m largely reading that as “I didn’t ask for another central striker that ‘has’ to played. Ollie’s faster, covers more ground, can run all day, and gave a good account of himself in his first season. He does more for my system.” Would he and Ings have rotated once the wide men were fit?

This is why in all the transfer speculation, I’d said that all the ‘links’ to players like Abraham made no sense. What we needed was the Archer profile: Small, fast, an eye for goal, and no immediate expectations to be in the starting XI. I’d have thought someone would’ve noticed him before we did.

None of that says Ings isn’t a lethal scorer comparable to Kane in output. And he’s worked very hard. He makes different runs than Ollie, the sort Buendia was picking out with Pukki to devastating success.

And of course, many are hoping that McGinn and/or Luiz are tasked with a more forward role. Some like the pivoting 6s, some don’t. Neither McGinn or Luiz has the pace to be further up and then run people down. But we see what McGinn does for Scotland. And we’ve seen flashes of Luiz higher up, and he might well flourish there as well. Sanson really could be a missing key to it all clicking. No idea what any of this means for Ramsey or Chukwuemeka

Instant Change?
We’ll see how Gerrard tinkers. And, if all we’ve read and heard is true, Gerrard’s secret sauce is Michael Beale. They’ll be packing, find somewhere to live, watching tape, evaluating, and figuring out what to do between now and January. And what to do about Brighton and Palace. Despite what we think about Smith’s departure, an international break is a good time to appoint a replacement, but since so many of our players are away, it’s kind of difficult to run the rule over them.

A plus for Gerrard & Co is that they’ll be able to choose from basically a fully fit squad. Updates on Traoré seem nonexistent, but if Buendia is played in his more familiar wide right role, it won’t necessarily matter in the short term. Another plus is that Gerrard and Beale have a lot of first-hand knowledge of Klopp’s ideas. One assumes from Rangers’ resurgence that they’re capable of getting those across to the players.

If that all sounds a bit tepid, it seems to reflect the consensus I’ve found here and elsewhere. Fans warming to the appointment, a degree of skepticism or wariness remaining that would surround most anyone besides a Conte. Me, I’m in the same place. Gerrard didn’t excite me to begin with, but I’m looking for the upsides and certainly hope they’re there.

Which means I’ll make the brilliant pronouncement that we just have to wait and see. If nothing else, I’m hoping there’s the bounce that sees us get a couple of results. Get away from the relegation talk and it should ease the nerves and help the players embrace changes with confidence. The nerves, and I’ve seen a couple talking about this, may be more pronounced with crowds back. I know we’d wondered whether the absence of crowds helped the Villa.

Anyway, once again, welcome Steven Gerrard. Even if we’re only a stepping stone, you’ll need to prove yourself at Villa to get that Liverpool job when it opens. Do that, and it’s a win-win. We’ll be behind you.

Over to you.

Comments 79

  1. Thanks JC, you have covered the talking points on all Villans minds and we await with interest how it will all play out.

    Like many folks, I believe the sum of our parts are better than Deano has extracted from them this season so Stevie G has a fighting chance on providing an upside. But after Brighton and Palace, our next 3 are Citeh, Leicester and Liverpool so it’ll be a baptism of fire for him.

  2. Thanks JC.thats a really handy summary and, for me at least, provides a useful reference point of things to look out for when the competitive action restarts.
    Plug, I think we’d all agree that the sum of the parts should be greater than DS managed to extract from them but I’d add a really important proviso. . . . . Those parts were never actually available to Dean Smith, due to injuries, internationals, covid illness etc.
    Let’s hope that SG is one of those ‘lucky generals’ and does indeed have all the parts available to him.

  3. Tepid is a perfect word for my level of anticipation, so I’m going to desperately look/create an omen for the future. The last time we had a Villa fan as a manager, he did very well in getting us promoted then needed time to get us promoted again. He almost got us there but the owner lost patience. The Villa fan (ex player really) was sacked and an underwhelming (to us) ex scouse footballer was appointed. Now read Vic Crowe (my favorite manager) and Ron Saunders. Good omen or what.

  4. I for one can’t wait.

    I think there will be a huge difference in how we play. I think people will be very surprised at how much better we will be on the ball, because let’s be honest, under Smith our ability to retain possession for any amount of time was absolutely shambolic, especially since January. The football was nothing short off horrific the last 10/11 months.

    Our front 3 or 4 if it’s 4231 will roam. Another thing under Smith was our wide players simply didn’t move. They didn’t make any sort of good, unpredictable movement off the ball. They were so rigid and predictable

    I can’t wait for Gerrard and co to get working with Bailey, Sanson, Traore. 3 quality players we haven’t really seen.

    I also think Gerrard will be brave enough to drop Watkins, who has had a horrible start to the season

  5. As I said last post, Beale said in a inyereI saw he always wants the front 3 to be unpredictable, and move off thr ball because the opposition do so much research into how you play what’s the point in being predictable.

    I really like he said that because we all knew how ee would play under Smtih and its extremely easy to stop our front 3 because they just don’t move

  6. VillaMD. It seems to me that you’ve picked your list of ‘Must starters’ from players that we’ve seen very little of and are therefore unable to judge.

    Like you, I’ve seen that Buendia and Ings have performed very well elsewhere so you’d imagine that in the right set up; and with the right attitude; and the right personal chemistry with the new manager and his coaches; and the right ‘on pitch’ understanding and chemistry with his teammates; plus of course the right physical attributes for the way SG will want them to play, they should indeed be in our starting line up.

    Bidace and Chukwuemeka have shown really exciting promise in the youth teams (as has Archer who you didn’t include?) but it feels a bit premature to say that they’ll meet all the other criteria.

    As for Sanson. . . . .well personally I haven’t the first idea whether he should be in the first 11, supporting the u23’s, shipped out of the club or just have a permanent recovery bed allocated to him in our sick bay.

    Mings and Ollie are judged by the England manager to be good enough for the occasional start for England so if SG is any good as a manager you’d hope he’d be considering them and may be able to get them to fit into his system of play.

    Emi Martinez is surely top 6 material?

    I have been impressed by Konsa and of course Cash is now a full international too.

    We’re all of us too ready to discard players for whatever reason and then bemoan the fact that they perform well for other clubs. Idrissa Gueye is a prime example who received little or no praise at Villa and now starts regularly for PSG. Nakamba has looked a real asset at times, but lacked sufficient ball control at others but which of us fans is in a real position to judge whether under the right coaching regime etc and with the rough edges knocked off he couldn’t be another one that we risk letting slip through our fingers.

    I guess I’m saying that none of us fans are really in a position to make statements like “the rest are not top 6” and I certainly am bemused by the clamour for Sanson to start. . . .based on what?

  7. oh. . . .I missed Super John McGinn who has thrived for Scotland and was tipped for a £50m move to United (probably a top 6 team) just 2 season ago. . . .and and Douglas Luiz who apparently is good enough to play for Brazil but not us?

  8. sorry guys. . . . . . forgot Leon Bailey. we’ve not seen much of him yet, but from the glimpses we have seen there’s definitely a player in there waiting to be brought out.
    . . . .and Jacob Ramsey was just man of the match in the England u21 squad and was looking a new player this season (seemed to be starting to show what Dean Smith must have seen in him way before any of us did!) . . . .oh and there are those that say his brother is even better.

    ok. . . .I’ll stop now. . . promise

  9. Love the Gerrard interview

    Says he wants a no excuse culture because the players have absolutely everything available to them to exceed with the fantastic facilities available to them at BMH.

    Says he will take all the responsibility and pressure as he’s the manager, and just wants the players to go play how they are asked to by him self and staff

    I like him

  10. twitter can be mildly amusing sometimes. Just saw someone suggest that Sanson may now get to play as the slate will be wiped clean for all players. Someone else has added that unfortunately he’s ruled out as the clean slate fell on his foot.

  11. “Someone else has added that unfortunately he’s ruled out as the clean slate fell on his foot.”

    That made me laugh, r0bb0. Sometimes the replies are absolute gems.

  12. Just watched SG’s interview on AVTV. Firstly, I though the interviewer did a good job at asking the sort of questions we’d like answers to. SG is clearly a bright guy and well trained in how to give professional/political answers which is an important attribute of managers these days. He did give a few little glimpses of his personality though and I did feel for him and the emotions that he must have been going through over the past few days. Managing a football club is a tough ask and he admitted to his stomach churning over recent days and I imagine that never goes away (unless/until you stop caring!)
    I felt he managed to skirt the question about how he came to be at the club except to say that it all happened very quickly. . . . .let’s take that at face value eh?
    He came across as being quite self aware and appreciating that there’s always a lot to learn, but he did seem to have confidence that he has now formed an opinion of who he is and what he wants from himself, his team and the players. He referred to what needs to be done over the next 6 weeks as a pretty clear pointer towards him intending to be calling for reinforcements in January . . . . . It would be lovely to know just which areas he’ll be concentrating on. If he’s already formed an opinion then its a pretty clear indication that he’s had more than just the last 5 days to consider the question!

  13. Just another thought. . . . .If he knows which players are being targeted to join us in January, it could be either because he’s had longer to think about ti than he’s letting on
    recruitment is not the role of the Aston Villa manger but has already been decided on by others in the business.

  14. He won’t take long to work out our mid and physicality needs addressing. Has he bought his own recruitment guy with him? One thing that stands out from rangers is he doesn’t waste a transfer. Has a good eye for a player

  15. I bought his current book is a good read. He cracks me up being so desperate to win the league. Every summer he was willing pool to spend well and he said the first training session watching borini and aspas he knew they wouldn’t make it

  16. Just seen some footage from SG’s first training session. In case Mark still looks in on here from time to time. . . . . .you really should take a look at it mate . . . . .I’m sure I caught a sight of Trezeguet!!!

  17. H&V. . . . .’having a say’ in signing players isn’t quite how it used to be is it. . . . .pretty sure ‘Arry wouldn’t have stood for that.

  18. Hello Robbo, just looked in this morning after what seems a long time, Yes I saw that SG’s and Beale were feverishly writing notes on him and Mouthing why didn’t they tell us we had such a talent. Look forward to seeing him in one of those 10 spot.

  19. Hi Mark, Welcome back. It’s good to have a true football aficionado back on the blog. . . . . . . someone who recognises real talent when they see it.

  20. I represent that remark r0bb0!!! LOL!!
    I am very big Trezeguet fan, and always have been, as MK will bear out. It was good to see him back in training with the team
    Stevie Gerrard looked fit enough to be playing and was loving it!!
    I was quietly impressed with his interview which was well balanced, and reasonably informative.
    I do not see any room for players who are not totally committed and the X-box players days are numbered. He was also very clear about how poor the defence is, and that is where he will be concentrating.
    Good to see John McGinn put in another good performance for Scotland, and good to see Mings doing the same for England, as well as getting his first goal.

  21. Hey Mark . . . . can you feel the love?

    Seems the Trez fan club is bigger than we thought!

    H&V. . . . . . it is going to be fascinating to see who is tasked with what, next time out and it is easy to imagine that McGinn will be at the heart of it. If Gerrard likes Duracell bunnies then you can see why he’d love McGinn and you’d have thought he’d be wanting to find a place for Ollie too? Maybe Ollie and Ings will work extra hard but being swapped part way through a game , so that the pressure is maintained right through to the end.

  22. jbd656,

    An excellent article which falls in line with my own views, having followed Villa over the same period of time, having been introduced to the Holte End by my Dad, who also used to collect his dividends from Ansells Brewery at the same time, in liquid form!

    I really loved the period of Mercer’s Minors, amongst many other periods of Villa successes. Charlie Aitken, one of our greatest servants, the wonder goals from Andy Gray, the cold night of Villa 5 v Liverpool 1.

    However, I am now looking forward to Stevie Gerrard taking us on from the great work of Bruce and Dean Smith, who have revived Villa’s fortunes.
    I like the look of Neco Williams, Wales left back, and have seen a rumour that he may on Stevie’s list to recruit, even if only on loan.

  23. PP
    That Villa 5 Liverpool 1 game ( game was 10 years almost to the day that I made my “debut” for Villa 2 ManU 1.

    That Liverpool first half was the best Villa performance I ever saw, especially as I was at the Witton End (for the only time ever) swallowing all those goals.

    The Mercer Minors intrigue me as it seems only Charlie Aitken came through. All the others seemed to get crocked. I remember Lew Chatterley (our poor man’s Paul Madeley) in the lower leagues but made more of a name for himself as a coach at Southampton.

    When City won the league in 1967, I had no idea what connection Joe Mercer had with Villa. 20 years later I moved to Ellesmere Port then another 20 years later I found out that both Micky Wright and Keith Bradley were from the Port and and went to a school about half a mile from my house.

    My life seems to have gone round in a Villa circle. Got my eye on the residential care home built on the site of the Hare and Hounds pub that stood on Marsh Hill in Erdington. Reckon I could zimmer the mile and a half to VP in about an hour. That would complete the circle.

  24. 656, That’s a great link for the history of our managers/coaches.

    If anyone has read Brian Little’s book, “A Little is Enough”, he makes quite a damning indictment of Billy McNeill as manager. Basically said his modus operandi was to get the ball down the wings and cross for the Centre Forward – “Bingo”. He says McNeill kept using the same broken record that ended with Bingo. I wonder if his nickname with the players was Bingo or perhaps even McBingo.

  25. I also read that David O’Leary had his job interview for VP at Herbert’s house over Sutton Coldfield way, quite close to said rose garden mentioned in that link. O’Leary said Herbert was very friendly and offered to make him a chicken sandwich in the kitchen if he was hungry. Typical Herbert, wasn’t going to meet him in a hotel and pick up an expensive tab.

  26. But I guess Herbert had more class than anything available at small heath. Gold said he met Trevor Francis halfway between their respective homes to discuss his severance package. It was in a layby on the A34 just outside Oxford.

    Two grown men together in a dark layby at night. Gold said he denies all stories!!

  27. Have to agree here, Bruce got us our best buy this century in John Mcginn, actually I would go as far as to say he stole him. Then again another one we love to complain about was McLeish, who if I am not mistaken bought us Benteke. So there are two old managers that had a bit of a midas touch in finding players.

  28. Cv
    Lambert signed benteke and only reason mcginn signed for Bruce was as usual he offered biggest wage,Rogers left Celtic over mcginn not signing for them Vila offered over double what Celtic was

  29. PP has a point. Bruce was responsible for stopping the rot in the club. He was sufficiently respected at the time to be able to break the cliques, instil a bit of discipline and stop the slide that we’d been on for nearly a decade

  30. Enough looking back we need a committed team on the field ,fans players manager staff and owners trying to get this great club back to top table,first time for years probably since o Neil have I felt this way

  31. Who is fit who is playing at weekend
    Martinez cash Konsa ming’s probably certainly,will it be target or young
    Midfield is where problems start and end who will Stevie g pick probably mcginn(who I think owes smith an apology for his performance this calendar year along with Watkins) if Luis is fit he will play that leaves one spot open( sanson)
    Attackers Ings Watkins and one other ( beundi)
    Roll on Saturday v Brighton ,
    I wonder what will press conference be like on Friday will it be full of truths or lies

  32. I wouldn’t give any credit to be honest.

    His management of our cener backs in his last summer were shambolic. Played Jedi at cneter back and fucked Chesters career up because he had to play though an injury.

    The football was shocking as well

    and he bottled the play off final which was the worst day of my life

    so I hate Bruce tbh

  33. Spud’s handling of RossGate was a disaster. Di Matteo persuaded Villa to buy McCormack for 12 million. Within a matter of months, Spud took over and made a public case out of McCormack’s alleged missed training sessions. I give Spud 100% for not wearing such behaviour but going public ensured 12 million was down the drain.

    As JG says, enough of the past. Can’t wait to see how we set up at VP on Saturday. Hoping for a new manager bounce, but it’s going to take some time before trends become apparent.

  34. Nice one JC
    I think we will see instant change as I suspect the coaching will move from a more hitting long balls into forwards areas approach to a passing transition of play which should see us getting more and more out of our players as the adjust to the style of play
    I was very sceptical about Stevie but on reflection and seeing how he has surrounded himself with good football coaches in various areas of the game and the fact that he can probably attracted a few star names due to the respect he has in the game now makes me feel like the club can now kick on under him

    IF Liverpool want him in 3 years time it will be a good job done a may well suit all parties at the time

  35. Gerard’s are very impressive guy. Been buzzing about it since Deano left. Gerrard is elite. There isn’t many about, he lives to win. It proper hurts him to loose.

    The standard behind the scenes is going to go through the roof.

  36. Told a chap at work about Deano pushing back training to 12. Sounded bad saying it out loud and he was like what, that’s mad!

    And it is. Give players an inch and they’ll take the piss. I mean delaying training so they can stay up all night to play compute! Haha it’s madness

  37. Story of how he has the heart rate checker on in games. In the week in training if you haven’t put the work in during the game he digs you out.

    Exactly what’s in his book I’m reading. When he was captain him and carra would be on you like a ton of bricks if effort wasn’t given.

  38. Whose to say starting workouts at 12 is a bad idea? When i swam we had work out choices that were tailored to our biological rhythm. No two swimmers were the same. So coach had workouts through out the morning with your standard one size fits all work out in the late afternoon. Me? I was an early bird and a plugger. My friend was lazy, wouldn’t get up, swam late mornings and held several NAIA records. Oh, we both ate ketchup.
    Slagging Dean at this point in time is stupid. He did a tremendous job in 3 years and now the chip van is beyond his remit? Gerrard’s methods will grow stale too—I’m guessing in 3 years. The players are who they are. You can’t squeeze them all into the same box. Darwin’s theory will separate the wheat from the chaff.

  39. Ye Gerrard press conference was good.. He just has a presence about him and a he demands effort.

    Smith was certainly to soft on the players. Starting training at 12, plus we were the 2nd lowest team in distance covered. The players hsd an easy life and got away with it

    Gerrard won’t accept it.

    Can’t wait to get back to Villa tomorrow. Really can’t

  40. Apparently Gerrard told the board of every single players strengths and weakness in his 5 hour interview

    We are in good hands

    He said we will become possession based to

    No more hoof ball thank God

  41. Under Smith since January we couldn’t string 3 passes together, and we were void off ideas so Mings and Konsa always end up launching it. We had zero patterns of play and had no idea what to do in possession

    We will see a huge change tomorrow

  42. Ian

    it ties in to our bad form too. Think he started it around January. Footballers will take the piss. Dont have to be up early for training…theyll go out night before.

    not slagging deano off but starting training at 12 so they can stay up later. mad

  43. frem

    will we see a change though.

    still dont have a 6 with luiz out. i think he may go 4231 to protect the defence more.

    We just dont have that midfielder who can sit and detect.

    bousama more likely to run the game tomorrow

  44. H&V, I’m a more of a type who needs order in my life if any kind of work out is to get done. Mess up my morning and the whole day goes to the dogs. And that happens more often than I want. My afternoons are useless regardless then I get it together a bit for the evening. But that’s me. I was thinking that Dean was being accommodating to increase the workout effort. I suppose you have to look at the fact that players are young and it’s first time away from home. It’s funny, talk about older heads on the team being the steadying hand—my son is an “older head” and he still drives me nuts at times. I’ve often wondered why my dad and I butted heads at times. Hahaha

  45. Refreshing to hear what players are available for match day, not waiting for Facebook to tell us
    Same problem tho no midfield,be tempted to go 442
    Martinez cash Konsa ming’s target traore beundi mcginn Ramsay Watkins and ings

  46. Just read an article which amongst other things, said:

    “It was well known in football circles that Smith was doomed at Villa, where chief executive Christian Purslow had been looking to replace him for some time.”

    Now this could be the usual clickbait nonsense, but if true then the Dean Smith slump should be placed firmly at Purslow’s door. It’s wouldn’t be right to ‘assume’ the article is true, but it certainly has a ring of truth about it. Can you imagine just how hard it would be to maintain the same level and optimism and intensity if you knew that your bosses had lost faith in you?

  47. You can be sure that in his job interview (if it was a genuine one) Gerrard will have been emphasising his previous youth role at Liverpool and how much he was wanting to develop more of Villa’s really promising youth players.
    Any best on how many of them will make it onto the bench today, how many into the starting line up and how many to come on at any time during the game?

    Excluding Jacob Ramsey, I’m going for 3, 0 and 1.

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