Talking tactics: Villa’s defensive frustrations overshadow silky ‘Gerrard ball’

Aston Villa suffered a 1-0 defeat to Man Utd in the FA Cup on Monday night, and there will be both positives and negatives for Steven Gerrard to analyse.

Ultimately, the result is what matters and to see our hopes of winning silverware ended at the first time of asking in the third round, it’s a disappointing outcome regardless of the performance.

READ MORE: Five key talking points as Villa exit FA Cup despite troubling Man Utd

Nevertheless, this is still a building phase for Gerrard as he continues to work tirelessly to implement and establish his identity and style of play on the squad he has inherited, while he’ll also now look to stamp his own mark on the squad in the January transfer window.

In turn, there are positive signs of what could yet come, but results must follow if this is going to be considered a positive campaign.

Defensive mistakes need to be cut out

Villa have developed a bad habit of conceding poor and avoidable goals.

It happened again at Old Trafford on Monday night and it was an early setback that should never have been.

As seen in the first two images in the tweet below, Villa were poor both in terms of their closing down of the cross from Fred with Danny Ings opting to follow Ollie Watkins to the ball rather than stick with his man who he’s aware is there, and secondly in relation to the number of bodies in the box that Scott McTominay had to get through.

It’s simply not good enough at this level, and while we defended relatively well across the game as a whole, this was a costly moment and we need to be better.

Further, the number of times Man Utd players found time and space on the edge of our box to take a shot from distance was concerning. The absence of a real physical presence in midfield to dominate that area and not get drawn to the ball is sorely missing in this Villa side and it will hopefully be addressed and fixed sooner rather than later.

Villa’s build-up play coming together

Looking at one of the big positives from the night, our build-up play was excellent for the most part.

As seen in the video below, Villa were patient, sharp and played at a good tempo to firstly keep possession, and then upped the pace once we got into the final third.

The movement off the ball was excellent too as we created openings and caused Utd real problems, but the only thing missing and most important of all was the end product in terms of a clinical edge in front of goal.

Both Ings and Watkins were guilty of not putting away some big chances, but it’s hoped that with the addition of Philippe Coutinho and other Gerrard targets this month, we’ll see this style of play become more refined and polished as more time and training sessions pass, and if we play to this level consistently, we’ll cause a lot of teams problems.

This is the way Gerrard wants his Villa side to play with the ball with the addition of a ruthlessness in front of goal, but there is still work to be done, and perhaps additions to be made, on the defensive side to ensure we have the right balance and aren’t just a side that plays good football and comes up short, but instead a side that plays with style and has the grit and steeliness to win games too.