After Aston Villa fell to a 2-0 defeat to Bournemouth on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, Steven Gerrard has a lot to dissect this week.
Aside from the obvious disappointment regarding the result itself, the performance was well below the standard required from Gerrard and his players if we wish to challenge for a top-half finish this season.
While both goals that were conceded were poor, the lack of creative quality from Villa was alarming as although we enjoyed spells of possession, we created no real sustained threat on the Bournemouth goal as we struggled to unlock their defence.
That will be a concern for Gerrard given he threw most of his attacking players on by the end of the game, and so it remains to be seen what changes he makes when we host Everton at Villa Park next weekend.
Gerrard’s identity and philosophy for Villa still not on show
While we’ve heard a lot about Gerrard’s desired identity and philosophy for this team, we’ve yet to see clear and consistent signs of either.
Having had a full pre-season now, which was naturally important for him and staff to get their ideas across to the players in a more relaxed environment, the fact that we didn’t see that today and lacked ideas to overcome our struggles was a concern.
We need a big response next weekend in terms of intensity and urgency on and off the ball to take the game to Everton, but the quality also needs to be there.
Sanson’s future once again in doubt
Following his Instagram post just before kick-off having been left out of the matchday squad, there are question marks once again over whether or not Morgan Sanson will still be a Villa player this season.
Having travelled with the squad to Australia and seemingly played his way into Gerrard’s plans for this season, the decision to omit him even from the bench was a questionable one.
That was particularly true having watched our midfield struggle at Bournemouth, and it’s questionable as to how Sanson isn’t getting a look in.
Buendia must start, Coutinho at risk
Much like we saw in pre-season, Philippe Coutinho struggled to get going against Bournemouth and his lack of creativity and influence on our attacking play was a major contributing factor to our problems.
The Brazilian needs to rediscover his best form and perhaps even needs a positional change to get the best out of him, but for now, Emiliano Buendia must now start.
The Argentine playmaker looks lively, positive and sharp every time he features, and it’s got to a stage now where there is no understandable factor in leaving him out.
Carlos, Kamara need time to adapt
While our new signings impressed in pre-season, both Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara will need time to adapt to the Premier League.
The pair looked to be struggling with the tempo and intensity of the game on Saturday, and so they’ll need to learn from that quickly and improve their level of performance.
Not only are they pivotal in our defensive shape and organisation, their technical quality on the ball is also hugely important when we build out from the back and move into the final third.
Midfield problems continue for Villa in new campaign
Despite the introduction of Kamara to our midfield, there was still a lack of balance and cohesion to our play as we didn’t control the game to the extent where we consistently troubled Bournemouth.
Jacob Ramsey was replaced at half-time, while John McGinn couldn’t influence the game in his first game as captain as Kamara struggled with the tempo and intensity.
Gerrard has to get the combination right, whether that means changing system too and going with two in midfield in a double pivotal. Things need to change as this is the same problem we had last season and we’ve stuck with a similar push for a solution.