Aston Villa suffered a deserved defeat at Newcastle Utd on Sunday as Steven Gerrard’s men were nowhere near good enough to come away with a result.
This month had been seen as a big opportunity for Villa to start stringing results together and climb the Premier League table, but ultimately after clashes with Leeds Utd and Newcastle, we have one point to show for our efforts.
While this is still a building phase for Gerrard and his players, they’ll know better than anyone that the performance this weekend was simply not good enough, and it’s hoped that they can identify where the problems lie, and come up with the necessary solutions to get things right.
Time for Gerrard to shake things up in midfield
Whether it’s the personnel or dynamic of the midfield, it’s simply not working as we continue to lack control in that area and continuously fail to command the game in that department.
That in turn creates problems for us going both ways, but more so in the defensive phase, as we’re far too easy to hit on the counter attack, while one good ball through the lines cuts us open and leaves our defence exposed.
If we continue with it, it’s going to continue to be a problem and we’ll see more frustrating games like this one as our attacking quality won’t always bail us out.
Long-term replacement for Luiz as a No.6 needed
While there is little doubt that Douglas Luiz is a talented player, every week it is becoming clearer that he isn’t suited to the No.6 role and Villa need to replace him in that position with a long-term option.
Our pursuit of Yves Bissouma has been publicly acknowledged by Gerrard, but that will now have to wait until the summer, and there is of course no guarantee that we’ll fend off competition and land his signature.
In the meantime, we need to consider alternatives between now and the end of the season and with Marvelous Nakamba still sidelined by injury, that surely points to Morgan Sanson as the only genuine option available.
Wrong Watkins strategy
Ollie Watkins is continuing to receive significant criticism, and while he can certainly do better, Villa’s strategy in terms of the service into him is baffling.
Instead of playing to his strengths and using his movement and runs into the channels and in behind to stretch defences and use his pace, Watkins is often coming short to hold the ball up and bring others into play.
While that has its benefits, asking him to do it against physical and taller centre-halves than him is a thankless task, and not only is it killing his confidence, but it’s not working in our play. Villa need to reconsider how we use him, as Danny Ings will no doubt face the same frustrations, as he did after coming on at Newcastle.
Cash needs to work on final ball
For all the dangerous positions that Matty Cash gets into, he doesn’t do anywhere near enough with his final ball.
VIlla’s right-back grabbed an assist in midweek against Leeds with a great ball into the box, but he wasn’t decisive enough against Newcastle and we saw chances and openings pass us by.
Given the importance of the role of our full-backs from an attacking perspective for Gerrard, as we saw with his decision to bring in Lucas Digne on the left, Cash will know he’s under pressure to perform.
Villa need to find a winning habit
Gerrard again referred to his side making a slow start and having a poor first half. The Villa boss has pointed that out several times since arriving, and he needs to find a solution so that the players are consistently on it from the first minute.
On top of that, we need to start winning games consistently and make it a habit. After throwing away two points against Leeds after putting ourselves in a commanding position, we dominated possession on Sunday but did nothing with it.
This team needs to shed the mentality that it currently has as it’s holding us back. We need to start fast, defend strongly as a collective unit, put the opposition under pressure and be clinical when chances come our way. Particularly this week, we’ve fallen short in several of those areas.