What Villa and Gerrard need to address in the January transfer window

With the January transfer window open for business, Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard will get his first chance to improve his squad.

While there have been reasons to be positive and optimistic since he was appointed, Villa’s loss to Brentford on Sunday was arguably the first significant setback under Gerrard’s stewardship that would have raised question marks over what is needed to strengthen the group.

READ MORE: Five key talking points as Villa throw away lead in a frustrating defeat at Brentford

As per Fabrizio Romano, Axel Tuanzebe is on his way out as his loan deal with us will be ended early, while Marvelous Nakamba’s injury setback has left us light in midfield.

In turn, coupled with a lack of depth elsewhere and quality in certain areas too, it’s expected that Villa will be active this month to try and give Gerrard the opportunity to stamp his mark on the squad that he inherited from Dean Smith, as he looks to now really drive home his philosophy and get his side playing with the identity he wants it to.

Defensive frailties

In the initial games under Gerrard’s management, there was a clear improvement in Villa’s defensive displays as we shored things up and looked much more difficult to beat in comparison to the end of Smith’s tenure.

However, the floodgates are starting to open again slightly having conceded five goals in our last two games, and ultimately if we want to start competing for a European spot, we need to be better defensively to give ourselves a solid foundation on which to build.

As noted above, Tuanzebe is on his way out while Kortney Hause’s audition on Sunday went particularly badly, and so reinforcements in central defence to offer back-up to Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings should be top of the priority list.

Additionally, there is a lack of quality depth in the full-back positions to either give Matty Cash or Matt Targett a rest at the very least, but also to push them for a starting berth.

In turn, it looks as though the bulk of any new signings should be brought in to address our problems at that end of the pitch.

Midfield solidity

The loss of Nakamba to injury has certainly hurt Villa, as the midfield anchor was a mainstay in the starting XI following Gerrard’s arrival and our defensive solidity has since dropped off in his absence.

Douglas Luiz has stepped into that role, one that he is certainly familiar with, but it changes the dynamic of our midfield as it requires more control over possession and tempo to avoid being overrun and left vulnerable at the back.

It’s a position that many Villa fans felt needed to be addressed in the summer as an almost ‘final piece of the puzzle’, and particularly towards the back end of Smith’s time in charge, it was an obvious weakness in the side.

Time will tell if Gerrard believes it still is, as although Morgan Sanson has shown positive signs that he can come in and be a big player for us in that department, perhaps a midfield destroyer to protect the defence will allow him to express himself more freely and become a more potent option in the final third as well along with the likes of John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey.

Depth in attack?

The attack is going to be a fascinating one as it remains to be seen if Villa necessarily need to bring in any more players in that department.

Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings will continue to compete for the role of leading the line, while Leon Bailey will hope to return from injury in the coming weeks to give us another option out wide on either flank.

Emiliano Buendia showed what he’s capable of against Brentford and it’s hoped we see more of that now, while Cameron Archer, Carney Chukwuemeka, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Anwar El Ghazi, Bertrand Traore and Trezeguet are all options at Gerrard’s disposal too.

That said, this is perhaps where the Villa boss needs to be most ruthless in terms of deciding who is good enough moving forward. Players will surely have to leave first before we bring in any more new faces, whether that’s simply loaning out the youngsters or trying to move on some of the more senior players.

Both Traore and Trezeguet will now be absent at the AFCON this month, so time will tell if that gives the talented crop of starlets a chance to step up and prove themselves, or if it essentially opens a window for Gerrard to bring in his own players to fill those roles, which in turn could have a negative impact on those battling to save their Villa futures.