Steven Gerrard has galvanised Aston Villa in just two months and the arrival of Coutinho shows how much sway he has in the transfer market… but he still needs to claim a big scalp – and they have another shot at Man United next!
- Steven Gerrard has only been at Villa two months but has made a big impact
- The impending arrival of Phillipe Coutinho is a hugely exciting addition
- Next, they face Manchester United looking to avenge their FA Cup defeat
Steven Gerrard is only two months into his role as Aston Villa manager, but the Midlands club are very much galvanised by the impact of their new boss in such a short space of time.
His two-month anniversary comes up a day after their disappointing 1-0 FA Cup third round defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford but Villa were the better side and can rue some profligate finishing and a questionable VAR call when Danny Ings thought he had equalised.
A big scalp is what Gerrard needs next and fortunately for him and his side, they have another chance to land one on Saturday evening when they face United again, this time at Villa Park.
Steven Gerrard has had a massive impact at Aston Villa in his two months as manager
Villa were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Manchester United in the FA Cup third round on Monday
Villa face United again on Saturday, at Villa Park, where they have a chance to avenge the loss
That occasion will be significantly bolstered by the likelihood that in some capacity, Philippe Coutinho should be in line for his Villa debut. He is currently in France, having completed a medical and set to join up with the squad once a work permit is secured.
The arrival of the Barcelona and Brazil playmaker embodies what Gerrard has brought to Villa. He was influential in selling his vision for the club to Coutinho, his old Liverpool team-mate, and the 29-year-old will ignite the anticipation around Villa Park even further on Saturday night.
Villa are also in talks to sign the left-back Lucas Digne from Everton, another astute addition if it gets over the line.
Gerrard made a brilliant start to life in the Premier League as Villa sealed victories over Brighton and Palace before defeats against Manchester City and Liverpool sandwiched a win against Norwich.
The most disappointing moment would have been the 2-1 defeat away to Brentford on Jan 2. Having taken the lead through Ings, Brentford equalised just before half-time and then snatched a winner seven minutes from the end.
‘I couldn’t believe we were level at half-time because the performance was really strong,’ Gerrard said. ‘It seemed to be a matter of when the second goal was going to come.
‘In the second half we had a lot of possession, we created chances, but I’m really disappointed how we conceded the second goal. It’s a catalogue of errors.
‘When I first come into this job we got some positive strong results because there was a lot of grit and people were putting their bodies on the line. I didn’t see that for the second goal.’
If all goes to plan, Philippe Coutinho could make his Villa debut against United this weekend
The Barcelona star is in France awaiting a work permit and could join the squad on Wednesday
Gerrard has also heaped praise on Villa midfielder John McGinn, who has impressed him
There will be blemishes along the way, though, as there is whenever any manager takes over at a club. And Brentford give most teams a tough ride at home.
A player to have impressed Gerrard early doors is Scotland international John McGinn.
Speaking in the build-up to the win at Norwich, Gerrard said: ‘I love John McGinn, I love the person, the character, the player.
“I’m the lucky one that’s able to work with him and try to improve his game.’
Villa head in to Saturday’s game with United 13th in the Premier League standings but the burst of wins under Gerrard when he arrived have lifted them away from the relegation zone, which was becoming a looming fear when things were on the slide with predecessor Dean Smith.
A top-10 finish will be the aim for Gerrard and Villa now, especially as they are out of the FA Cup. The rest of the season will allow the Villa boss to assess what he has at his disposal and work on transfer targets for the summer window.
Villa have a £33m option to buy Coutinho at the end of the season and with a £25m fee mooted for Digne as well as interest in Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma, it is clear that the Villa board are ready to back their manager.
And with someone like Gerrard at the helm, who could rule out other landmark signings like Coutinho?
‘He picked Villa because of Gerrard,’ Sportsmail columnist Micah Richards wrote last week. ‘Gerrard’s name and reputation is far reaching and this initial loan from Barcelona could be the catalyst for a new era at my old club.
‘Coutinho turning up in Birmingham is a statement of intent from Villa. Plenty of players will be looking at how he fares under Gerrard and be intrigued by what happens next; those playing now will have grown up watching Gerrard at Liverpool and be excited by the idea of working with him.
Villa could also wrap up a move for Everton left-back Lucas Digne in the January window
Gerrard is clearly being backed by the Villa board to leave his mark on the squad he inherited
‘This, potentially, is so much more than just a temporary deal until the end of the season. It’s going to be one of the most fascinating pieces of business that happens in January and it shows the authority Gerrard has because Villa, of late, have tended to sign younger players than this 29-year-old.’
But Gerrard’s tenure does not rest of Coutinho recapturing the form seen at Liverpool. Coutinho is, in many ways, a fail-safe risk as there is no obligation to buy.
And even if he does flop, the excitement at Villa Park on Saturday could well be enough to help Villa avenge the FA Cup defeat on Monday. And if they do that, it could be a bigger shot in the arm for the club, and Gerrard, than anything else.
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