Following Steven Gerrard’s departure, Aaron Danks will take charge as Aston Villa face Brentford on Sunday afternoon.
The first-team coach steps in to fill the void after the Villa hierarchy opted to part company with Gerrard following our defeat to Fulham on Thursday night, and so while the search for a permanent successor goes on, he’ll hope to deliver a win this weekend to lift the mood around Villa Park.
Given our current position in the Premier League table as we sit precariously just above the relegation zone after 11 games, a win is certainly needed to ease concerns ahead of a full-time appointment, and so it will be interesting to see what changes Danks makes to the line up to stamp his mark on it.
It could be that he looks for a reaction from those involved in midweek and doesn’t try to change too much, but those who were marginalised by Gerrard during his time in charge at Villa will no doubt be hopeful that there will be a clean slate and they will be in contention this weekend.
Key figures to keep places, tweaks from Danks?
Perhaps some of the only real certainties is Emiliano Martinez keeping his place between the posts as well as Ashley Young continuing at left-back to offer his experience and leadership.
Matty Cash was rested for the first half at Fulham and so he’ll expect to come back in, while Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa could once again partner up in the middle of the backline.
Things get a little less clear in midfield, but Villa were boosted by the news on Friday that Douglas Luiz’s red card at Craven Cottage has been overturned and so he will be available for selection in this one.
A big question mark though is whether or not Danks keeps faith in captain John McGinn despite his poor form this season. Seemingly undroppable under Gerrard, the Scottish midfielder could find himself out of the side this weekend, but conversely, the temporary Villa boss may want to prioritise continuity rather than change too much in what could possibly be his only game in charge.
Jacob Ramsey has also been far from his best in recent weeks and so it remains to be seen if he keeps his place with the likes of Morgan Sanson, Leander Dendoncker and Marvelous Nakamba all hoping to get more of a look in following Gerrard’s exit.
Danks will also have a big call to make up top with neither Ollie Watkins nor Danny Ings able to find the back of the net in eight Premier League games now.
With Cameron Archer fit and available, time will tell if we see a drastic switch up top as fans have long been calling for the youngster to get a chance, but ultimately this comes down to how safe Danks wants to play it or whether he’s willing to take risks in order to help us pick up a crucial result.
The expectation is that he’ll likely go with the former and hope that the players respond to his ideas and training leading up to the game to provide a reaction for the supporters, while possibly bringing in more creativity in the form of Philippe Coutinho and Emiliano Buendia with Ings and Leon Bailey dropping out.
If it isn’t going to plan though, it would certainly be refreshing to see him not hesitate to change things up and bring on players capable of influencing the game.
(UPDATE: The Telegraph report that both McGinn and Ramsey will be dropped vs Brentford, with Danks ready to make key changes to the system used by Gerrard.)