Aston Villa made it back-to-back wins after seeing off Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Steven Gerrard enjoying an excellent start at the club.
Goals from Matt Targett and John McGinn secured all three points at Selhurst Park in a 2-1 victory, with Villa now preparing for a clash with Man City in midweek.
That will undoubtedly be a tough test for both Gerrard and the players, but for now, they can be pleased with another important three points as we look to build on the positives of the last two games and improve in important areas.
Villa becoming hard to beat again
One of the big differences in Gerrard’s first two games in charge, and something that he himself has emphasised since replacing Smith, has been making us hard to beat again and building our success on solid defensive play and clean sheets.
What we’ve seen in the last two outings is exactly that. Villa look organised and throw everything into pressing in the right areas and dropping into a solid shape when necessary.
Those are perhaps the most pleasing aspects of Gerrard’s opening two games, and ultimately it was something that we badly needed to rediscover to get out of the hole we were in.
Style of play, identity starting to show
Particularly in the first half, there was an indication of how we will look to play under the new Villa boss.
Our passing was slick, snappy and accurate, played into feet and zipped around the pitch to create dangerous openings with the movement off the ball also impressive.
While we had to adjust and hold strong in the second half, it was pleasing to see a bit of what Gerrard wants from our style of play in possession, and it’s hoped that as he settles and gets his ideas across in the coming weeks, we’ll see more of that.
Nakamba excellent as Villa midfield show up
One of the biggest issues and weaknesses for Villa in our five-game losing streak was our midfield.
The ineffectiveness in that area was problematic in both phases of the game, as sides overran us whilst we defended and we couldn’t provide any quality into our frontmen to go out and win games.
Marvelous Nakamba was superb against Palace, particularly in the opening 45 minutes, as he stamped his mark all over the encounter with his snappy tackling and quick passes forward to break the lines. If he can be more consistent, then we have an important piece in midfield to make us tick.
McGinn driving force
Capped off with a superb winning goal, McGinn put in a brilliant performance on Saturday.
From his tackling to his passing accuracy and his finishing, it was an all-round top display as he has answered the call in terms of stepping up and being a leader in Gerrard’s side.
It’s hoped that this is the start of a consistent run from the Scottish international, as when he’s on his game, it means we’ve got a foothold in midfield and a much better chance of picking up points.
Attacking line yet to click
Gerrard himself will know that this is nowhere near the finished article and there is still much to work and improve on in order to get the most out of this squad.
While the priority has seemingly been to correct our defensive deficiencies, we’ve not yet seen the best of our attacking players who have shown flashes of quality but not over an extended period of a game.
Ollie Watkins scored a beauty against Brighton and looks much more comfortable leading the line as a sole frontman, while Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey still haven’t hit top form. That in turn has opened up chances for the likes of Ashley Young and Anwar El Ghazi, and so while it remains to be seen who emerges as the preferred trio, there is still a lot more to come from Villa from an attacking perspective, which is exciting in itself.