After confirming Cameron Archer is available for our trip to Fulham, Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard must now back up his talk and give the youngster a chance.
The 20-year-old has totalled just 27 minutes of football so far this season, and although he’s said to have been carrying a knock which has prevented him from being at 100% for the majority of the campaign thus far, Gerrard confirmed on Wednesday that the youngster is available for our clash with Fulham.
“Cameron Archer’s back today,” Gerrard told BirminghamLive. “He’s going to be travelling with the squad tomorrow. He’s over his little bug. Cam has trained the last few days and he’ll come back into the squad.
“He’s going to be needed as well because the thing that’s missing from our performances and being so close at the moment is putting the ball in the net. To have him available and to have another option is big.”
While it’s one thing saying that Archer is an important option to have, it’s another entirely to actually then use him and give him significant minutes to be able to impact games. So, will that start at Fulham given Villa’s struggles for goals so far this season?
Archer has shown eye for goal, Watkins, Ings struggling
Whether it was for Villa at youth level, when he made his breakthrough at senior level or during his loan spell at Preston North End, Archer has shown that he has natural goalscoring instincts.
Having impressed over pre-season, Gerrard made the decision to keep him in the squad rather than loan him out, and so there was a sense of excitement that Archer would get opportunities to really push both Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t materialised. The injury concern noted above is perhaps a bigger factor in that than we are able to acknowledge given the lack of specific detail on the groin problem that has been troubling him, but even when he’s been named on the bench, he hasn’t had enough chances.
While Watkins plays a pivotal role for the side with his work off the ball and he does still pose a threat in the final third at times with his movement and speed, he has just one goal in 11 games so far this season, while he’s now gone seven league games without one.
Similarly, Ings has two goals in 10 appearances this season, and it’s been seven league games since he last scored too.
Gerrard has clearly stated that Archer is “going to be needed”. It’s time to now back up that talk and give him time on the pitch to showcase his quality and to try and make an impact that his more senior teammates have been unable to provide over a lengthy period of time.
Importantly though, that doesn’t mean bring him on for five or 10 minutes at the end of the game against Fulham almost as a goodwill gesture. If we’re chasing the game or if it’s finely poised and we’re looking for a winner, bring Archer on with plenty of time left on the clock so he can get up to the pace of the game and have a chance to influence the result.
Time will tell if Archer is given that opportunity by Gerrard on Thursday night, but if neither Watkins nor Ings find their goalscoring boots any time soon, it will be the Villa boss who potentially takes the hit for it amid intense speculation over his future at the club this week.
As per the Telegraph, Villa are starting to line up potential replacements, and so Gerrard’s future at Villa may well hinge on our results against Fulham and Brentford this week. Granted, it’s a big call when there’s doubt over your future to put faith in a young player, but when others aren’t performing to the level required, perhaps it’s about showing bravery and taking the gamble.