Steven Gerrard on the extra pressure he felt for a bright start at Aston Villa – and how he managed 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 managerial record has been impressive, but short. There was no doubt about his experience on the pitch, but off, his one managerial role at Rangers raised valid questions as to whether he could stop an alarming swoop in form at a time when Villa had lost three points from the relegation zone.

“I am happy with the start we have made, I feel positive and optimistic,” he says Sky Sports. You can see why.

Four out of seven wins, with forgivable – and limited – losses against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have completely changed Villa’s trajectory. Not only that, their style was molded into their new manager’s will as quickly as possible. A team that have lost many goals have grown into a compact defensive unit almost overnight, despite having scored 10 times in those seven games so far.

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Gerrard is a meticulous operator and a football obsessive, who will keep an off-league match if there is no Premier League or EFL scheduled that day. He knew as much as he could about his new team before he crossed the threshold. This has certainly helped implement such rapid change.

So his awareness of those questions from a fan base that still has some affinity for Smith, the born and raised Villa figure who brought the club back to the Premier League just two years ago?

“I think when a local guy in Dean, who did a really strong job and built a lot of good things, left the club, there were a lot of fans who had mixed feelings about it,” he says. “I really admire the support the fans have given to Dean and the work he has done. The admiration and respect they have done for the work he has done, the support they have given me too has been fantastic. We had to earn. something, perhaps more, of this by entering when we did and with whom we replaced.

“It was really important to start right away: we had very little time to convey an identity and a philosophy to the players, but thanks to them, they took it very well and we started really well. They have been fantastic so far.

“I had to know a lot about the team, luckily I watch football a lot, I am interested in many teams, coaches and styles. To get a job at this level, you need to have a real detailed catalog of the players individually, of the team, of what happened. before and where you can take it forward “.

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This knowledge helped him quickly start improving the performance of some Villa players whose comeback seems more than the result of a new coach rebound. Gerrard is reluctant to suggest that his midfielders have more to gain from his position experience, but look at Marvelous Nakamba. Jacob Ramsey. John McGinn too.

It’s hard to find a Villa player who has enjoyed such a rapid rise as Nakamba’s, and when it was announced in early December he would be banned for several months due to a knee injury, the news was a lot. more of a blow than it was. it would only be weeks earlier.

“Marv deserves all the compliments he had before his injury,” says Gerrard. “There were some areas of his game that we wanted to improve, he played in a certain style for a long time and we had to make sure he could adapt to certain things we wanted.

“We worked with him by opening his shoulders a lot more, analyzing a lot more, his receiving abilities. He has many attributes for us, so it’s about developing and supporting those where he needs a certain job.”

While not uniquely qualified, Gerrard has a rare understanding of what it means to be a homegrown hero as well. Here’s a man who has arguably put his relationship with Liverpool and his fans ahead of a bigger trophy as a player. Who better to mentor Ramsey, a central midfielder with a penchant for scoring who joined the Accademia del Villa at the age of six.

He blossomed from the appointment and made and a third of his 18 Premier League games under Gerrard. His new manager is keenly aware not only of the importance of Ramsey’s relationship with Villa, but also of the importance of fans identifying with one of them.

“We want to clean it up, give it the support it needs, it knows there is a path,” says Gerrard. “Dean was a big part of all of this and the previous staff, we can’t take all the credit for him, but he was someone who was on the sidelines and who was getting certain starts, for us he really grabbed the shirt. The challenge now for he holds it in his hand, because people will want it out of him.

“We treat people based on what we see, and he’s shown with his training and match performance that he’s ready now. He grabbed that jersey and he’s one of ours in terms of being a local kid. This is important, they feel. that responsibility and bond with the fans ».

So, if Gerrard has already rejuvenated Villa at both ends of the pitch, now what? Danny Ings’ riddle could prove to be his next challenge. The club had yet to see the best of the £ 25m summer arrival before the new manager stepped foot in the door and not much has changed since then.

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Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard reveals that the club has “identified transfer goals” for the January transfer window that will thrill Villa fans.

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, along with two Ings injuries, made their relationship less of a problem for Gerrard since his I arrive.

At some point, however, there will be an expectation of getting more from a player who was the Premier League’s second top scorer less than two years ago.

“I welcome the challenge of getting the best of both players,” he says. “When they are both 100% fit and shooting, they are two of the best players in the Premier League and have shown they can score goals at this level.

He’s had a couple of setbacks so far so he’s still looking for the best Danny Ings who is a nightmare around the box. This is what I am still looking for and trying to achieve, but it is a challenge that I am looking forward to.

Steven Gerrard on the form of Danny Ings

“Aston Villa is stronger to have both options available; does this mean that I will force them to play together? No. Are there any games they can play together? Yes. The puzzle is an exciting challenge for me, and me. ‘we have to try to find the right answers and solutions, if one of them gets injured or leaves, that doesn’t make Aston Villa stronger or better, so we should appreciate both.

“From Danny’s point of view, he’s had a couple of setbacks so far, so he’s still looking for the best Danny Ings who’s a nightmare around the box. That’s what I’m still looking for and trying to get, Ollie is there, I think in terms of its shape and texture, but it’s a challenge that I can’t wait.

“Danny is really honest, that’s one thing I admire about him. He was frustrated by being hurt when we got there, and then he came back, he wasn’t himself, he got a little blow that brought him back, and he had a also a problem with his throat that has also held him back. “

With Gerrard and Villa welcoming 2022 to Brentford Community Stadium on Sunday, are there any resolutions he will make for the new year after what must be considered a successful 2021?

He says, “It’s not something that interests me very much these days, other than being the best I can be.”

They say you should make sure that any resolution for the new year is workable. From how things started for Gerrard at Villa Park, it seems so.

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