5 things Steven Gerrard needs to fix at Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard was appointed as Aston Villa’s new head coach yesterday.

MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 30: Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is seen at full time during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell FC and Rangers FC at on October 30, 2021 in Motherwell, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The appointment comes after their former boss, Dean Smith, was sacked on Sunday after three years with the club.

Gerrard joins on a three-and-a-half year deal after leaving Scottish club Rangers – whom he won their first league title in 10 years last season.

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The former Liverpool captain arrives in Birmingham with Villa sat 16th in the Premier League table after enduring five successive defeats.

MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 30: Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is seen with Fashion Sakala during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell FC and Rangers FC at on October 30, 2021 in Motherwell, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Prior to Jack Grealish’s departure to Manchester City in the summer, Villa enjoyed a positive 2020-21 campaign in which they finished in 11th place – but Gerrard will have plenty to do to get the Villans back fighting for European qualification.

Here are five things Gerrard will be tasked with fixing as he makes his return to the Premier League.

Villa’s defence

Aston Villa’s defence was particularly impressive last season, conceding the least amount of goals in the bottom half of the league.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool (C) shows his frustation during the FA Cup Semi Final between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on April 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Their full-backs – Matt Targett and Matty Cash – were brilliant throughout, while Tyrone Mings established himself as a regular in Gareth Southgate’s England squad and Ezri Konsa became a solid member of the Villa team.

However, the current campaign has been a completely different story – with a similar back four conceding the most goals outside of the bottom three so far.

In the lead up to Smith’s departure, Villa had let in 13 goals in their previous five fixtures, resulting in captain Mings being dropped against West Ham.

If Villa are to revive their season then Gerrard is going to have to get this defence back to their previous form.

Bring confidence back into the squad

Aston Villa’s squad was brimming with confidence last season, which was very visible in fixtures such as the 7-2 hammering of Liverpool, a 3-0 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and a 2-1 win against Chelsea on the final day.

The likes of Mings, Targett and John McGinn looked – and probably felt – unstoppable and you could see it in their performances.

Perhaps a lot of this confidence came from having someone as spectacular as Jack Grealish alongside them, but with their former star man gone, Gerrard needs to find a way to get that confidence back in each individual player.

He is going to struggle to get them back to their best if they don’t believe in themselves.

Find the attacking flair that came from Grealish

Grealish was vital to Villa’s success in the Premier League since their promotion in 2019 and there was no doubt that the rest of the team felt a lot more capable of winning games and beating the big teams with such a talent in their starting XI.

However, the midfielder has unfortunately departed and they have to learn to live with that.

Following his move to City, Smith brought in Emi Buendia from Norwich City and Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen.

On paper, the pair should be an excellent replacement for Grealish, however they are yet to meet expectations - scoring two goals and assisting another three in all competitions between them.

Gerrard needs to help find that attacking flair that they both clearly have and have shown with their previous teams and then perhaps Villa can start to move on from their former hero.

Decide on the Ings/Watkins dilemma

Ollie Watkins enjoyed a brilliant 2020-21 campaign with Villa following his move from Brentford last year, scoring 16 goals in all competitions and earning his first England cap in March.

Meanwhile, Danny Ings scored 13 goals for Southampton and was rewarded with a summer move to Villa Park.

Two ‘goal machines’ in the same time may have been expected to provide Villa with plenty of goals together this season, however the pair in the starting line-up together just doesn’t seem to be working.

Ings would often play alongside Che Adams up top for the Saints, with the ex-Birmingham City forward would drop off him, however Watkins isn't going to do that.

In some cases, the two make work out together, however it is looking likely that Gerrard may have to choose between them for his striker role and it will be a tough decision for him.

Continue giving the youngsters a chance

During Smith's time with the club he often relied on the academy products and younger players in their squad and they would so often repay the favour with their performances.

Both 18-year-old Carney Chukwuemeka and 20-year-old Jacob Ramsey have been given chances to shine so far this season, with the latter making a particularly good impression in Smith and the Villa faithful.

The midfielder has made 10 Premier League appearances this season - scoring their only goal in a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal last month.

Gerrard should continue allowing the younger members of the squad and academy to progress and develop alongside the senior players - something he is guaranteed to do given his past role working with Liverpool’s own academy.