Dean Smith may consider himself slightly hard done by after being relieved of the Aston Villa job, but there’s undeniably excitement surrounding the appointment of Steven Gerrard following an impressive stint in charge of Rangers.
A five-game losing streak ultimately sealed Smith’s fate, though there were of course warning signs that the Villans could struggle in the absence of talisman Jack Grealish.
They were just W3-D4-L9 when the now Man City player didn’t start over the past two campaigns, scoring 19.7% fewer goals in these games as his creativity was sorely missed.
With the riches of Pep Guardiola’s side inevitably landing their man, Villa were widely praised in the summer for their transfer business as they brought in Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia to effectively replace their star man.
The trio have rarely all played together at the same time so far, but Villa have only failed to score twice in 13 matches across all competitions this season, both coming on the road, with one of those at Stamford Bridge.
With Villa conceding 13 times across their five-game losing streak, the first call of order for the former Liverpool icon will be to tighten up the backline.
His Rangers side haven’t been as good defensively this term when compared to his title winning season last time around, but in that campaign, Gerrard demonstrated an ability to forge a resilient outfit.
In fact, the Gers conceded 50 goals in the season prior to Gerrard’s arrival, which almost halved to 27 in his first term at the club, before the record-breaking 13 in their title-winning season.
With new players to accommodate, Dean Smith elected to switch to a back three with both Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins paired in attack, though with the system proving unsuccessful to date, Gerrard will likely revert to the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 that he rarely deviated from at Rangers.
His team north of the border sought to get an attacking threat from the full-backs, with narrow inside forwards cutting inside onto their favoured foot in attack.
The assumption is that Watkins could be fielded on the left-hand side to hopefully solve the striking conundrum, while left-footers Bertrand Traore and Leon Bailey would offer good alternatives on the opposite flank.
Villa Draw No Bet
Brighton certainly represent a tricky test for Gerrard’s first assignment, with Graham Potter’s side up in seventh place, level on points with Man Utd and a point ahead of Tottenham.
However, it’s fair to say that they’ve slowed down after racing out of the blocks this season. Across all competitions, the Seagulls won six of their opening seven fixtures, including Premier League victories over Burnley, Watford, Brentford and Leicester.
Since then they’ve failed to win any of their subsequent seven outings, though aside from a defeat on penalties to Leicester, only Man City got the better of them in this recent sequence of results.
Stalemates with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal were good results, but draws with the likes of Norwich and Newcastle also suggest that the early form has slightly deserted them.
Aston Villa are W7-D5-L7 at home in the Premier League since December 2020, though the defeats were inflicted largely by the better sides (West Ham twice, Leicester, Tottenham, Man Utd, Man City and Wolves).
With optimism surrounding the new appointment in the dugout and a playing squad seemingly well suited to his tactics, they should at least hope for a point here.
Moreover, Brighton have only won twice in 10 away days in the league since April, with those coming over lesser lights Burnley and Brentford.
VILLA DRAW NO BET