What issues does Steven Gerrard face as new Aston Villa manager?

From Ibrox Hero to ‘Villan’ in the blink of eye, Steven Gerrard has left his post as Rangers manager in favour of replacing Dean Smith at Premier League side Aston Villa. The Liverpool legend won over the passionate blue half of Glasgow during his three years with the club, bringing the Scottish Premiership title back to Ibrox last season for the first time in 10 years.

However, despite telling journalists to ‘stop asking silly questions’ about his future just a couple of weeks ago as he claimed to be happy at Rangers, the Scouser has since upped sticks and made the move back across the border and down south to Birmingham.

Taking over a struggling Villa will be no easy task for Gerrard and his backroom staff, all of which have made the move with him. The Midlands outfit have lost their last five games in a row and whilst they aren’t one of the favourites for relegation in the UK sports betting with Karamba, they are dangerously close to the dreaded drop zone.

It is a massive risk from the 41-year-old at this stage of his career, especially as he has high aspirations of managing his beloved Liverpool in the future. It really could be make or break on that front, as a potential relegation won’t look good on his CV when he eventually throws his hat in the ring for the Anfield job.

That said, read on as we take a look at some of the issues that Gerrard needs to overcome and quash quickly at Aston Villa.

A lack of confidence amongst the squad
Having narrowly avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2019-20, ultimately saved by faulty goal-line technology, many expected Villa to drop back down to the Championship last season. However, they proved to be one of the Premier League’s surprise outfits, climbing up to 11th.

That confidence and pizzazz seems to have gone out the window this season though. Perhaps the self-belief was ejected from the squad with the departure of Jack Grealish, who moved to Manchester City for a record-breaking £100m, but one of the major tasks for Gerrard is getting the Villa players to believe in themselves again and make them realise that they don’t need Grealish to succeed. Easier said than done, of course.

Key players out of form
Arguably a domino effect of our first point, several key players being out of form has undoubtedly not helped Villa this season. Emiliano Martínez was the side’s hero last year, letting in just 46 goals in 38 Premier League appearances while keeping 15 clean sheets, leaving him behind only Ederson and Édouard Mendy in the Golden Glove standings.

That form carried on for Argentina in the summer, as he helped his country win their first Copa América title since 1993. He hasn’t been as reliable between the sticks this year though, with only Newcastle United and Norwich City conceding more goals.
Tyrone Mings, who was such a key figure in the centre of defence last year, has looked extremely poor so far this season, and was even dropped from the starting XI by Smith, while the likes of Douglas Luiz, John McGinn and Matt Targett have not been performing to the standards they were last year. Whether that is because most of these players have been involved with their countries so much in recent months, including at major tournaments, or something else, Gerrard needs to help find their confidence and quick.

Bedding in the newbies
The Grealish money left Villa’s bank account just as quickly as it came in with Emiliano Buendía signing from Norwich for £38m, Leon Bailey arriving from Bayer Leverkusen for £30m and Danny Ings, one of the best kept transfer secrets of recent years, moving from Southampton to Villa Park for £26m.

However, due to various reasons, none of those players have really seemed to bed in to their new surroundings. Buendía, last year’s Championship Player of the Season, has really struggled to find his feet in Villa’s attack and looks completely shot of confidence, while Bailey has been in and out of the squad with injuries and has only started two Premier League games to this point.

Ings is a proven goalscorer in the English top flight, but while he started the season fast with two strikes in as many games, he has dropped off a bit with just one goal in his seven games since. He missed Smith’s last two games via an injury, and Gerrard will be hoping that he is ready and raring to go come the end of the current international break.

Luckily for Gerrard, he has his trusty backroom staff with him, including assistant manager Gary McAllister and Michael Beale, who many claim are the brains behind the group’s success, so he has a solid team to try and iron out Villa’s issues.

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