Why Gerrard must now name creative Villa ace in starting XI

As we prepare for our trip to face Nottingham Forest next week, Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard must now name Emiliano Buendia in his starting XI.

After leaking too many goals to start the Premier League season, with Villa conceding nine in our opening five fixtures, Gerrard has overseen a crucial improvement in that department as we’ve shored things up defensively and become harder to beat.

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That’s reflected in the fact that we’ve conceded just one goal in our last three league outings, registering two clean sheets in those games, but the problem we now face is a lack of quality and clinical play in the attacking phase of the game.

Villa have scored just six goals in eight league fixtures so far this season, with only Wolves and West Ham scoring less.

As he continues to make a positive impact every time he’s introduced off the bench, Villa, and specifically Gerrard, need to find a way to integrate Buendia back into our starting line-up on a regular basis to inject some much-needed creativity and quality in the final third.

Buendia will add much-need creativity, quality to Villa attack

It’s a consistent theme every time he gets onto the pitch, but Buendia brings flair, creativity, urgency and an eye for a key pass when he’s involved.

He picks up the tempo of our play, provides movement off the ball to give his teammates an option in threatening areas and he has positive intent in most things he does as he tries to unlock defences.

On top of that, he always puts in a defensive shift for the team too. Buendia has shown great work ethic to press and track back when needed, and so he ticks all the right boxes in both phases of the game as we look to maintain our defensive organisation and solidity.

Numbers back change of personnel

With Ollie Watkins failing to score in five straight games now and with neither Philippe Coutinho nor John McGinn registering a single goal or assist so far this season, something needs to change as clearly we’re not getting enough from key individuals.

Additionally, Jacob Ramsey and Leon Bailey have three goals and two assists between them thus far in all competitions, and so the options that Gerrard has tried haven’t been reliable in providing him with the quality needed in front of goal.

In 314 minutes of football so far this season, Buendia has bagged a goal and an assist, with Ramsey totalling 597 minutes playing time while Bailey has 509. Coutinho has played 511 minutes while McGinn tops the charts out of those players with 750 minutes played.

Villa need a spark in the final third, and the Argentine international has shown, in less time on the pitch than others, that he can provide it and it’s baffling as to how he continues to be limited off the bench.

On Gerrard to find right combination, give Buendia extended run

With the attacking options and quality that we have at Gerrard’s disposal, we should be capable of playing better football and causing opposition defences real headaches. Whether it’s in place of either Coutinho or Bailey, or alongside them, Buendia has to find a place in the Villa starting XI and it should happen at Forest.

Aside from the goal threat that he brings, Buendia’s ability to see and execute through balls to play to the strengths of Watkins and Danny Ings will also add a welcome new dynamic to our play in that we could pose a threat through the middle too rather than putting so much responsibility on our full-backs.

Buendia is a must-start as Villa look to start building on our defensive solidity and start showing more class in attack. And importantly, if it doesn’t go to plan away at the City Ground next Monday night, it would be incredibly refreshing to give him an extended run in the side to find his best form rather than a stop-start scenario where he’s back on the bench against Chelsea. The 25-year-old hasn’t started back-to-back games since the last two games of last season, and before that it was in February.

Time will tell if Gerrard makes the switch or if we see him persist with the same options that are just not delivering. That’s on the players in question, but also the Villa boss himself too.