Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard has looked to protect his players and has insisted he will continue to fight as pressure mounts following our defeat to Chelsea.
Despite being four games unbeaten heading into the encounter at Villa Park on Sunday, Villa’s struggles in front of goal particularly have made it difficult to alleviate the pressure on Gerrard in recent weeks.
Having scored just four goals in our last seven Premier League games, we simply haven’t been good enough and although we produced a much-improved performance in the first half against Chelsea, once again we failed to take our opportunities which was also largely down to an excellent display from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Nevertheless, as we sit just one point above the relegation zone having collected just nine points from 10 games so far this season, questions will continue to be asked of Gerrard as he struggles to get results on the pitch.
Speaking after the game, the Villa boss looked to take the spotlight and responsibility away from his players, and insisted that he will battle on as looks to turn things around and get us up the table.
“We were much better today, we created lots and lots of chances, the way we played in and out of possession, the intensity,” he told Match of the Day, as per BBC Sport.
“The first hour was how I want this team to look. We made a costly mistake and they punished us. The performance was outstanding up to the second goal, which knocked the wind out of us. Up to that point we dominated large parts of the game and on another day could have had a handful of goals.
“We have to keep performing. If we have that level of performance I have every confidence and belief in the players. We hit the woodwork three times, the goalkeeper had made a number of saves, we gave everything to the game.
“We need to turn these results into wins and try to move up the table. For me it’s about protecting the players. There will be criticism and I need to take the responsibility away from the players.
“If we can replicate that [first] 60 minutes we will move up the table quickly as Chelsea could not live with us. I’ve had support from above [the board] but a lot of that support is injured. I have to keep fighting and I will take any criticism that comes my way and accept it.”
Beyond the damaging numbers noted above in terms of our position in the table and points tally, and given Dean Smith was sacked after picking up 10 points from 11 games last season, there are big issues beyond the figures too.
While the atmosphere at Villa Park picked up as we threatened in the first half, there is a real feeling of being disconnected and disillusioned at the club right now, and the boos and jeers at full-time spoke volumes of how the Villa faithful feel.
Time will tell if Gerrard gets until the Fulham game on Thursday, but if he does, the outcome of that game surely has to be a win if he has hopes of staying on longer as we simply haven’t shown enough progression or development if we’re in exactly the same place we were in 12 months ago under Smith.