Aston Villa were unable to avoid a third consecutive Premier League defeat as we fell to a 2-1 loss at Wolves on Saturday.
Goals from Jonny and an own goal from Ashley Young gave the hosts a comfortable cushion at half-time, and although we struck late on through an Ollie Watkins penalty, it wasn’t enough to salvage anything from the game.
It was another disappointing performance and result for Villa, and with just eight games remaining this season, it seems as though the focus is switching more and more to what happens in the summer transfer window and in pre-season as we look to take big strides next year.
However, that shouldn’t gloss over the disappointment of how we’re faring right now, and criticism should be shared by both the players and coaches alike for that lack of consistency and improvement in recent months.
Still no solution to poor first-half showings
A common theme since Steven Gerrard took charge has been the Villa boss bemoaning his side’s slow starts and not showing enough energy or aggression in the first half of games.
He’s been making the same point for weeks now, and yet we’re here again after our defeat at Wolves listening to him talk about the same problem that is hindering us so badly.
The longer it goes on, the more concerning it is. Are the players not buying into how Gerrard wants us to start? Are they not getting the instructions being given to them? Whichever way you look at it, whether it’s the players or the fault of Gerrard, we need to stop pointing out the same weakness over and over again and fix it quickly.
Gerrard wrong to continually hint and look toward summer signings?
Once again in his post-match interview, Gerrard spoke openly about the likelihood and desire to strengthen the squad this summer which of course involves spending more money.
On one hand, it’s fair that he gets the opportunity to stamp his mark on the squad and bring in players suited to his system and style of play, and perhaps then we’ll see the best of him as a manager.
However, it’s also counter-productive in the sense that his current players are constantly getting criticised publicly and talked about being replaced, and so it’s difficult to find the balance. It could be argued that the Villa boss should be focusing on developing and improving the players at his disposal for now and not continually looking to the future and new signings.
Midfield dynamic still not working
While it was great to finally see Morgan Sanson get an opportunity, the midfield still isn’t good enough and it was exposed time and time again, particularly in the first half against Wolves.
John McGinn didn’t look comfortable at all as our No.6, as he struggled both in and out of possession to give us a solid and reliable presence in the heart of the team.
A defensive midfielder will have to be top of the transfer shortlist this summer, as although we’ve got Marvelous Nakamba coming back from injury soon, it’s clearly still a major problem for us if we continue with this system as it makes that position and role all the more important.
Poor run vs sides above us continues
That’s now one win, one draw and 11 defeats to teams that are currently above us in the Premier League table, as we simply have shown that we’re not good enough yet to leapfrog them in the standings.
Barring our win over Man Utd at Old Trafford and a draw with them at home, we’ve not been at the standard required to match these rivals and it’s a damning indication of where we’re at still.
Despite spending big and assembling a squad that we hoped would build on last season and really push for a European place, it hasn’t materialised and we look to be fighting for a top-half finish again.
Is this the ceiling for current squad, is clear-out needed in summer?
It’s going to be fascinating now to see just how many changes Gerrard believes he needs to make to the Villa squad this summer.
It could be argued that he needs to maximise the potential of what he’s already got, and that in turn raises question marks over his coaching ability to develop and improve individuals to get more out of them.
However, some might argue that many players in this squad have reached their ceiling and/or don’t suit Gerrard’s game. There’s perhaps a case for both points, and so it’s going to be a fine balancing act this summer to determine who should stay and who ultimately needs to be replaced.