Manchester City Football Club come into Saturday’s match against Aston Villa at Villa Park fresh off a complete dismantling of Nottingham Forest. The Manc Blues are flying. Villa, however, are not off to their dream start. I was able to connect with Phil Vogel of SB Nation Aston Villa fan community 7500 to Holte to get a sense of how things are going in Birmingham.
CITYZENDuck: There seemed to be a lot of positive hype around Aston Villa’s appointment of Steven Gerrard as manager last fall. Nearly a year on, the results have been mixed to say the least. How would you assess Gerrard’s first 10 months at the helm?
Phil Vogel: I think I can officially label his first 10 months as poor. It started well! Marvelous Nakamba as the base of the midfield, the defence was solid, and the results came. After Nakamba’s injury, Gerrard never seemed to adjust (and didn’t really have the depth to replace him) and the season fell apart.
But this summer the positive hype came back!! The owners backed Gerrard and got the big moves done very early with Philippe Coutinho, Diego Carlos and Baboucarr Kamara. Creative playmaker… check! Starting quality Centre back veteran… check! Young and talented defensive midfielder… check! Gerrard now had high-quality pieces to make the team work. And it hasn’t… at all.
Villa have lost (deservedly) to West Ham, Bournemouth, and Crystal Palace – all those teams have a single win… Villa. Coutinho has been invisible and now injured, Diego Carlos’ Achilles gave out and he will miss most of the season, and Kamara looks like the only professional midfielder on the squad. Gerrard can’t settle on a defensive pair (not helped by injuries to be fair), an attacking formation, attacking players, tactics in general or a media strategy.
But he does look sharp in a tie so he has that going for him!!
CD: Villa finished 14th in the Premier League last campaign and currently sit 15th this season. What is your realistic expectation for the club in 2022/23?
PV: Realistic… do I have to be? On paper, this squad is talented enough to compete for 7th and settle in comfortably from 8th-11th. Currently, Villa are lucky not to be dead last in the table. It is only five games in but I think the ceiling is now 9th and 15th is not out of the question. I THINK (read hope) the quality of the team means a relegation fight won’t happen. But hope is just a set of lies we tell ourselves about the future… so it could be a painful few months.
CD: AFC Bournemouth have already let go of manager Scott Parker. Currently, only Leicester’s Brendan Rogers has better odds of being the next PL manager to be sacked than Gerrard. Can Gerrard save his job and do you think a new manager would be able to get the club going in the right direction?
PV: Bournemouth for the win!!!! Did I mention they beat Villa on opening day and I’m sad about it.
Gerrard needs to figure some things out if he wants to stay in claret and blue. He needs to decide his best 11, best formation, tactics, subs strategy, plan B when that plan A doesn’t work. He needs to stop picking fights with the former captain (Mings). Get the current captain (McGinn) playing at a decent level. Convince the defence to stop celebrating goals so much that we give it right back. Seriously. Everton scored 1 minute after a goal, Crystal Palace 2 mins after a Villa goal, and it took Arsenal … 3 minutes after a Villa goal! That is made even more impressive given the fact that Villa have only scored 4 goals in the League so far.
Can he fix it? Yes. Will he? Based on what I’ve seen, no. But I expect the board to give him more time, possibly until the World Cup break. Unless the board gets someone like Mauricio Pochettino to agree to take over. A new manager could get it going or could be a total disaster. I like the idea of patience with Gerrard but I’m not really enjoying actually being patient with him.
CD: And finally, what is your prediction for the match at the Etihad this Sunday?
PV: 1-4. I have zero confidence in this Villa team.