With two wins from two games at the helm, Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard has enjoyed a productive start to life in the job.
After a torturous five-game losing streak, which culminated in the departure of Dean Smith, Villa have picked up six points from a possible six to move up to 13th place in the Premier League table, just three points adrift of Tottenham in seventh place at the time of writing.
While the message has been clear in that it’s about focusing on the next game and opposition, Villa have shown positive and important signs that they have addressed a major flaw in the side prior to Gerrard’s arrival that will hopefully lead to long-term improvement.
Porous Villa made more difficult to beat as Gerrard’s top priority
In that aforementioned five-game losing run, Villa conceded 13 goals.
The defensive solidity that was ultimately the bedrock of our success last season had disappeared and we were far too easy to cut through and score goals against.
During his first week in charge, Gerrard repeatedly told both in-house and outside media that the first priority would be to make us a difficult team to beat again. That meant shoring things up defensively, making clean sheets the priority, and then allowing our attacking talent to go out and win games with the quality that they possess.
While he still hasn’t had that long to get his ideas and philosophy across to the Villa players to start building an identity, albeit having a full week with the squad last week would undoubtedly have been welcomed with open arms, Gerrard and his staff’s influence has already had a direct impact on our way of playing.
We’ve conceded just one goal in those two wins, and even that was a late consolation goal, and while we have had to ride our luck at times, we’ve also been impressively organised, disciplined and shown a togetherness in terms of the way we press and defend that was perhaps missing previously.
As seen in the tweet below, the statistics also back up the talk.
Villa have faced six shots in each of the last two games, the fewest in any Premier League we’ve played so far this season, while we made 49 interceptions against Crystal Palace on Saturday, the second highest in a single game so far this campaign.
That tells a story in itself about how we’ve rediscovered the strong core of the side that makes life difficult for our opponents to beat us, and if we can maintain that and perhaps even improve on it, it will only lead to better results moving forward as we’ve also yet to see the best out of our frontline including the likes of Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey.
We have our work cut out for us in midweek against Manchester City at Villa Park, as that will be a serious test of the changes that Gerrard has implemented thus far as we look to make it three wins on the bounce for the first time since the start of last season.
🔘 Villa faced six shots against in each of the last two games, the fewest in any Premier League game we've played so far this season.
🔘 We made 49 interceptions against Palace, the second highest in a single game so far this season.
— Talk Villa (@thetalkvilla) November 28, 2021