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Aston Villa: 5 things that Steven Gerrard needs to fix in his new role

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Steven Gerrard is in at Aston Villa after leaving Rangers - and he's got a lot of tasks to get started on during the international break, as Villa lie down in the bottom half of the table.

Things haven't been plain sailing for the midlands outfit since selling talismanic captain and low-sock aficionado Jack Grealish to Manchester City for a nine-figure sum. But surely, Gerrard has the tools to work with at his disposal, since Villa have reinvested most of that money in the playing team?

NEWS Confirmed! Steven Gerrard named as Aston Villa manager

Expectation, clearly, is very high from the owners, who wasted no time in ousting Dean Smith. Gerrard's setting to work with a few key areas to sort out...

1. Find a shape that works for the team

As Villa stumbled in the early days of the season, Dean Smith tinkered around with a structure that could squeeze each of his stars into the one XI. Eventually, he came up with a three-at-the-back shape that matched up against Chelsea, when the Villans lost at Stamford bridge.

Smith's 3-5-2 used Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings as duel-strikers while padding out the defence a little more. It refreshed Villa to begin with but in recent weeks, it's gone rather stale. 

Gerrard favoured a 4-3-3 at Rangers and it looks like this is the shape that suits Villa a lot better. It will allow both Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey into the side as wide men, for a start, while giving the side a solid base in midfield to work with. The majority of players at the club fit this system: it's time to go back to what worked last season.

2. Decide who plays up front

Danny Ings

(Image credit: PA)

A 4-3-3 only has room for one of Watkins or Ings. Sure, you can shift one out wide... but why would you? 

Both strikers are best when they're sniffing around the penalty area for chances. The reason that Southampton's two-striker formation worked so nicely for Ings was that Adams would drop off to link up - but Watkins isn't going to do that. They're in each other's way at the moment.

While there will be instances in which you can use both to hold the ball up or chase a win, the sensible decision from the start will be to decide on one of them over the other and build from there. Ings feels like he was only bought because he was available - and it's played out like that this season, unfortunately.

3. Give Tyrone Mings his confidence back

Tyrone Mings has been poor this season - but Dean Smith dropping his captain reeked of a manager making desperate decisions to try and stoke a reaction from a leader. 

You can see why Mings was dropped but Gerrard needs to go in an opposite direction on this one. The centre-back has always played better when he's been protected by Douglas Luiz ahead and given a compact shape - look at some of his performances over the summer in Gareth Southgate's safety-first set-up for England.

Villa are going back to basics on a few counts and defensively, they have to keep themselves tight and regimented. Putting in the extra work with Mings and Konsa at the back to re-establish that relationship and give the captain a bit more confidence is a necessity when he's back from international duty.

4. Find reliable creativity from somewhere


(Image credit: Getty)

Aston Villa arguably have more game-changers than they did last season - but they still haven't learned what to do when Jack Grealish isn't around.

That was the case as long ago as when he was injured last term. The team just don't function in quite the same way when they can't play it out to the left-wing and allow someone to slow play down - but it's imperative that Gerrard finds new solutions to his problems.

One thing he did at Rangers, early on in his tenure, was play with two no.10s in a very narrow formation. While this wasn't a long-term fix, it helped to reset the team to have two focal points and share the burden of creativity. Using Buendia and McGinn, perhaps Bailey when he's fit or even Morgan Sanson could help reignite Villa when it comes to looking more dangerous in the final third.

5. Ask more of the full-backs

Villa have two solid full-backs in the two Matthews, Cash and Targett, either side of the pitch. The pair have functioned well as wing-backs, too - but more will be expected of them under Stevie G.

The full-backs were integral to Rangers' title run last season and now starts the six-week trial for both players. Cash should be fine but Targett may well be upgraded if he doesn't pass the test. 

Gerrard will ask the pair of them to contribute more in the final third than they have been of late - but that goes for the whole team. Expect to see more intensity, harder running and a revitalised Villa side after the break...

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