Villa’s January Business So Far, and the Damn United Again

Villa’s January business says NSWE, Steven Gerrard, or both, are looking for immediate impact, it seems. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they make a noticeable impact. You can’t have an entire team of projects, after all. Perhaps Phil and Lucas offer enough experience and nous to help the team’s mindset, never mind the set-up.

Whether this illustrates a demand for European places this year, can’t say. Whether this is meant to pre-empt sides like Newcastle? Can’t say. Whether this is part of the promises made to Gerrard to convince him to come, can’t say. Could very well be all of the above.

Coutinho, Digne, United, Oh My

On the face of it, both moves make sense. Coutinho’s creativity, skill, and style go a long way toward filling the hole left by Grealish and balancing out the side (which could obviously be quite the understatement). Likewise, Digne would seem to fit the left back profile that Gerrard’s system requires. Both are experienced internationals, and both would bring a different mentality to the side and the dressing room.

With Coutinho, while he’s unarguably world class, there will be concerns over form and fitness and what happens after his loan ends. Yes, there’s an option to buy, and the purported price tag entirely reasonable. Could well turn out to be a serious bargain and coup all at the same time. But that’s only if it works.

Welcome, Steven Gerrard: What Are We Going To Get?

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, 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. Perhaps the biggest difference will be that Gerrard can put a rocket up them and has no loyalties.

What Fills the Void After Smith?

While some think it was time and some don’t, there’s been a near unanimous outpouring of affection, respect, admiration, and gratitude for Dean Smith in the wake of his sudden departure from the club he loved. Not a common thing. It’s right and good to see.

But what comes next is probably a bigger call than hiring Smith in the first place.

Deano Actually Has Options for Villa’s Trip to Chelsea

No one knows how Villa will approach the match. If it were me, I’d probably lean toward playing this one in two phases, perhaps by starting 4-5-1, trying to blunt Chelsea, then look to get more attacking in the second. But that’s me.

The question is whether Smith will want to go all in for grabbing the first, or keep his powder dry, go for 0-0 as long as possible, and then throw on more firepower? Not at all sure he’ll want to start out with a combination that’s barely played together against such a strong side, however much he might want to see them all together.