What Steven Gerrard has brought to Aston Villa

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images) /

Just last month, the Claret and Blue fanbase of Aston Villa received the news that their manager, Dean Smith, had been dismissed by the club for new manager Steven Gerrard.

Many felt torn by their club’s decision. Smith had grown up as a boyhood Villa fan, but many also could not deny that the results from their manager for the 2021-22 season had been both dismal and disappointing.

Aston Villa then replaced Dean Smith with Steven Gerrard, Liverpool legend and now former manager of the recently successful Scottish club, Rangers FC.

So far in Gerrard’s five games as Villa’s new manager, he has already come away with three wins and 2 losses. Those two losses didn’t come against fellow mid-table teams or relegation battlers, they came against Manchester City and Liverpool, the top two teams in the league.

Clearly, there has already been significant improvement at the helm, but what exactly has contributed to this? Let’s take a look at three areas Steven Gerrard has had the most impact on since he arrived at Villa Park.

Defense is Back

The most significant area of improvement since Steven Gerrard’s appointment has been the solidifying of Villa’s defense. No longer does the backline look shaky at best.

Take a look at Gerrad’s two losses so far against City and Liverpool. Yes, both matches ended in defeats, but Villa’s defense looked unintimidated by the big names they were going up against. They stood toe-to-toe, suppressed the opposition, and made it difficult for both City and the Reds to do much with their possession and shots taken.

Man City were held to two goals, while Liverpool could only muster a single penalty. Even Jurgen Klopp couldn’t hide his nervousness, as he spent much of the first half arguing with the fourth official.

Villa’s defense now absorbs pressure from their opponents with more conviction. According to The Analyst, Villa are only conceding 1.0 goals per game, a great decrease from 1.8 under Dean Smith.

Steven Gerrard Giving Sanson His Chance

After sitting on the bench for most of his time under Smith’s tenureship, midfielder Morgan Sanson is finally getting the minutes he has desperately needed to adjust to playing in the Premier League.

The former Ligue 1 player has rarely been called up for Villa due to injury and just being low on Dean Smith’s list of favorites, but there’s already a sense that Gerrard sees something in Sanson that he likes. Gerrard has deployed Sanson as a second-half substitute, and each time the player has entered, he has brought the energy and composure that only a good fresh pair of legs can.

If he can stay fit and continue to be a reliable and efficient option for his manager, then there is no better teacher right now for Sanson to adapt to English top-flight football than Steven Gerrard.

Aston Villa Have Found Their Identity

Not all things can be proved with statistics and numbers. Some things just have to be seen first-hand. Any viewer who even caught at least one of Gerrard’s five matches at Villa’s helm could tell you what a difference a new manager can make.

As a collective, Villa play with more sharpness and awareness. As individuals, players no longer struggle with confidence to simply tackle and win back the ball. There’s a new sense of concentration, a new commitment to be aggressive, two things that were remarkably absent for the last few games Dean Smith was in charge.

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Could this just be beginner’s luck? Only time will be able to tell. But taking a look at how he transformed the last club he managed, the success that he brought them, and just how focused and appreciative Steven Gerrard has already been to Villa thus far, it is more than just luck that has given this Aston Villa team a new sense of purpose.