Steven Gerrard on the extra pressure he felt for a good start at Aston Villa – and how he handled it | Football news
It would be fair to say that Steven Gerrard was not Dean Smith’s first choice replacement at Aston Villa.
The former Liverpool and England captain’s coaching resume was impressive – but short. There was no doubt about his experience on the pitch, but other than that, his sole role as manager at Rangers raised valid questions as to whether he could stop an alarming dive in form at a time when Villa had lost three points. of the relegation zone.
“I am delighted with the start we have made, I feel positive and optimistic,” he said. Air sports. You can see why.
Four out of seven wins, with forgivable – and narrow – defeats to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have totally changed Villa’s trajectory. Not only that, their style was shaped into the will of their new manager as quickly as he could have hoped. A team that has lost a lot of goals has grown into a compact defensive unit almost overnight, while also scoring 10 times in those seven games so far.
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Gerrard is a meticulous operator and football enthusiast, who will hold a non-league game if there is no Premier League or EFL scheduled for that day. He knew as much as he could about his new team before he walked through the door. It certainly helped bring about such a rapid change.
So, did his awareness of these fan base questions still have some affinity with Smith, the Villa born and raised figure who brought the club back to the Premier League just two years ago?
“I think a local guy in Dean who did a really good job and built a lot of good things left the club, there were a lot of fans who had mixed feelings about it,” he said. he declares. “I really admire the support the fans gave Dean, and the job he did. The admiration and respect they gave for the job he did, the support they gave me. “He brought in was fantastic too. We had to gain, maybe more, of that coming in when we did it and who we replaced.
“It was really important that we took the lead – we had very little time to convey an identity and a philosophy to the players, but it’s their honor, they integrated it extremely well, and we took a really positive start, they’ve been fantastic so far.
“I had to know a lot about the team, luckily I watch a lot of football, I’m interested in a lot of teams, managers and styles. To get a job at this level you have to have a real detailed catalog. of the players individually, of the team, of what has happened before and where you can move it forward. “
This knowledge has helped him quickly improve the performance of some Villa players whose turnaround appears to be more than the result of another manager’s rebound. Gerrard is hesitant to suggest his midfielders stand to gain the most from his experience in this role, but look at Marvelous Nakamba. Jacob Ramsey. Even John McGinn.
It’s hard to find a Villa player who has enjoyed such a rapid rise as Nakamba’s, and when it was announced earlier in December that he would be ruled out for several months with a knee injury, the news spread. much more of a blow than she. would only be weeks ago.
“Marv deserves all the applause he received before his injury,” Gerrard said. “There were a few areas of his game that we wanted to improve, he’s been playing a certain style for a long time and we had to make sure he can adapt to certain things that we want.
“We worked with him by opening his shoulders a lot more, scanning a lot more, his receiving abilities. He has a lot of attributes for us, so it’s about developing and supporting those in which he needs some. works.”
While not entirely uniquely qualified, Gerrard also has a rare understanding of what it means to be a local hero. Here is a man who arguably put his relationship with Liverpool and his fans ahead of a bigger trophy cabinet as a player. Who better to mentor Ramsey, a central midfielder with a sense of purpose who joined Villa academy at the age of six.
He has flourished since the appointment and made and a third of his 18 Premier League debuts under Gerrard. His new manager is keenly aware of not only the importance of Ramsey’s relationship with Villa, but also the importance of identifying the fan base with one of their own.
“We want to polish him, give him the support he needs, he knows there is a way forward,” says Gerrard. “Dean was a big part of that and the previous staff we can’t take all the credit for him but he was someone who was on the sidelines and taking some starts, for us he really grabbed the jersey The challenge now for him is keeping it, because people will want to take it away from him.
“We treat people on what we see, and he shows it with his training performances and in games he’s ready now. He’s grabbed that jersey, and he’s one of us in terms of being a local boy. It’s important, they feel that responsibility and connection with the supporters. “
So if Gerrard has already rejuvenated Villa at both ends of the pitch, what now? The riddle of Danny Ings could prove to be his next challenge. The club had yet to see the best of the £ 25million arrive before the new manager stepped out and not much has changed since.
Smith’s desire to forge a partnership between Ings and Ollie Watkins played a role in his demise, but the latter’s three out of seven goals, coupled with two Ings injuries, have made their relationship less of a problem for Gerrard since his arrival. .
However, at some point one will be expected to get the most out of a player who was the Premier League’s second-highest scorer less than two years ago.
“I look forward to the challenge of getting the best of both players,” he said. “When they’re both in good shape and shooting 100% they’re two of the best players in the Premier League and have proven they can score goals at this level.
He’s had a few setbacks so far so he’s still on the hunt for the best Danny Ings who is a nightmare around the box. This is what I am looking for and always trying to achieve, but it is a challenge that I look forward to.
“Aston Villa is stronger for having both options available; does that mean I’m going to force them to play together? No. Are there any games where they can play together? Yes. me is an exciting challenge, and I ‘We have to try to find the right answers and solutions. If any of them are injured or have to leave, that doesn’t make Aston Villa any stronger or better at all – so we should them. enjoy both.
“From Danny’s perspective he’s had a few setbacks so far so he’s always looking for the best Danny Ings which is a nightmare around the box. That’s what I’m always looking for and trying to get. , Ollie is there, I think in terms of his form and consistency, but it’s a challenge that I look forward to.
“Danny is really honest, that’s something I admire about him. He was frustrated that he was hurt when we got there and then he came back, wasn’t himself, got a blow that pulled him back again, and he had a throat problem that held him back as well. “
With Gerrard and Villa hosting in 2022 at Brentford Community Stadium on Sunday, are there any resolutions he’ll be making for the New Year after what must be a pretty successful 2021?
He said, “It’s not something that I’m really interested in these days, other than being the best I can be.”
They say you have to make sure that any New Year’s resolution is achievable. With the way things started for Gerrard at Villa Park, it sure looks.
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