As we're slowly coasting along towards the end of the season, Villa have hit bad form, and will be disappointed with how we're finishing the campaign. Recent results have had supporters questioning whether Gerrard is the man for the job.
Those supporters are well within their rights to have their worries and queries, the management and players haven't given us much to cheer about as of late. But that is as far as it goes for me, queries. I still believe he is the right man to take us forward, and these setbacks are just part of the process to build towards what we want to be.
Why am i confident in Gerrard? Quite simply - when things get tough, he sures us up. When he first came in, he saw the poor form and negative morale around the camp, and he did what all good managers do to turn the tide; made us hard to beat. In his first 6 games we won 4, and lost 2 marginally to the top 2 sides in the league. We were solid, good on the ball, and had a clinical edge.
As we picked up points, and moved further away from the bottom 3, Steven Gerrard saw the opportunity to possibly push on even further than mid table mediocrity, and attempted to make us more expansive. At which point, we faltered slightly. The loss against Brentford being the standout example of how we could be played through with the space we left in the midfield.
Fast forwarding slightly, drawing to Leeds at home, and then losing to Newcastle and Watford, meant Gerrard had to reevaluate his shape to try and get the results back in. He changed to a diamond and we won 3 on the bounce without conceding.
All of this so far tells me that he has tactical awareness, he isn't inept. My frustrations recently come from the naivety of changing back to a system that doesn't work with this personnel. That to me feels like he has settled on our season being over, and is determined to bed his style in for the players that will be here next season.
The most recent loss to Spurs was a strange occasion. At half time, fans were quite bemused over the fact we weren't leading as we had created chance after chance, and spurned them all. The football was exciting, and relentless, but it came with it's huge flaws. Flaws that a team like Spurs can punish you for in an instant.
This leads us on to the summer recruitment we're about to witness, and it feels like it's going to be a wild one. Many ins, many outs, is what seems to be on the cards. The rumour mill is already in full flow, with a mix of discontent and excitement. Kalvin Phillips and Yves Bissouma have been freshly linked again, with fans worried about spending so big purely for household names.
However, over the last 3 weeks, Gerrard, Purslow, and Lange have been on scouting missions to observe 3 other targets for that elusive defensive midfield role. Those targets being; Ibrahim Sangare of PSV; Geoffrey Kondogbia of Atletico Madrid; Boubacar Kamara of Marseille. All 3 targets suggest, to me, that the recent reports of the club being after older, more proven talent, aren't 100% on the money. It seems more that the club are pinpointing the right profile of player for the system, not just the experience they have.
Of course, signing new players isn't the only way you progress in the league. You have to have a system that brings out the best in your players, old and new. Many fans are quick to point out how Gerrard seems to want to work towards a more Liverpool type style of play, and that it will take time to build. But it's worth remembering, however different the situations are between the clubs at the time of both managers appointments, Klopp when he first came in didn't press on with his favoured formation/system, he settled on the 4231 to suit his squad.
This is something that Gerrard HAS to do for us to get consistent results, and it's what all good managers do; play to your squads strengths. It will take time to build to what he wants, but he has to be patient and work with what he has. In my opinion, with the glimpses i have seen through his time here, i believe he will do just that.
Gerrard wears his heart on his sleeve, he's emotive in his interviews, and he has that winning mentality that we all expected from him. He's the sort of character you want to see in charge of the young talent coming through at your club, and he's certainly had an affect on Jacob Ramsey. He's brought out a goalscoring side to Ramsey's game, and a maturity along with it. The progression of JJ is something that players such as Carney Chukwuemeka, and Tim Iroegbunam will look to emulate.
I'm a big, big fan of Steven Gerrard, and i make it well known. I understand that he needs to do better with what he has, and i also know that he needs time to mould his team into what he wants it to be. Being in charge of a Premier League team for the first time isn't an easy job at all, especially when you're dropped in a sticky situation that you have to clean up, and with that being said, i think he's done an okay job. We still have plenty of points to play for which could see us finish near/in the top half of the table, and that should be the aim. I will wait until he has a pre-season, a summer window, and good chunk of next season to really, fully evaluate the job he has done.
For now, on the next one, and... Up. The. Villa.