I won’t say I was thrilled by the season or even satisfied. Far from it. But. I do think Villa have a real chance to make some telling strides this summer, and that the side will ultimately be better and deeper. And as Gerrard has seemingly shown a little more tactical flexibility down the stretch, I’m hopeful that we can see that depth used effectively.
Gerrard has apparently penciled in a 3-5-2, with Mings, Konsa, and Chambers, and Phil is on the bench. Probably about the last thing I expected. Will Buendia shine and give the brass something to think about? I know I’d like to see it.
Given Leeds’ precarious position, Bielsa’s demise comes as no real surprise and only made sense. And it will no doubt have a heavy influence on tonight’s game. Leeds desperately need something, and Jesse Marsch is convinced they’ll see the same Villa set-up that beat Brighton and Southampton. Can’t say I disagree.
His key to the game is bottling up Coutinho, of course, but that’s easier said than done if he’s on song and carries its own risks if it takes more than one player. It also means everyone else needs to help create space and options then do something with it.
Lots of frustration and anger after Sunday’s stinker, and fingers are pointing everywhere, which will happen. Most are singling out the players, and some have gone a bit further, logically, saying the performance at St. Jame’s Park would’ve gotten Smith sacked.
I was more hopeful of a glorious charge, didn’t want to be back here so quickly. Perhaps a shake-up will help in the short term. Whatever, if it gets us results, I’m all for it. If Gerrard is indeed ruthless, there will be lots of changes come summer. But one hopes that solves the problems, rather than this being a failure of system and evidence of obstinacy.
So, wherever Villa end up, it’s a big second half. Everyone will expect us to climb strongly. Getting a European spot is a big, big ask, though. Possible, but not likely. If it happens, all good. If it doesn’t, I expect at least one more summer and season to try and get us there without a reset. Which could mean a round of big changes at more than one level.
The shine on Gerrard will depend mightily on how this plays out. Villa have done smart business, so it’s not as though the future has been mortgaged. But as elated as everyone is at the moment seeing Coutinho in a Villa shirt, the hard parts are yet to come.