Steven Gerrard has set lofty ambitions for Aston Villa as he spoke to the media for the first time as their new boss.
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Gerrard, 41, replaced Dean Smith over the international break and the Liverpool and Premier League legend is tasked with pushing Villa up the table and away from the relegation scrap, starting with his first game in charge at home against Brighton this Saturday (watch live, 10am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Long-term, Steven Gerrard has high hopes for Villa.
Gerrard aims high with Villa
“Success in football is always about winning football matches first and foremost. Long-term I think the club would like to be back on a European level,” Gerrard said. “I don’t think it’s the right time now to put any specific date on that but for me more importantly it’s about focusing on the short-term which is Brighton at the weekend, we need to start winning football matches again and moving up the table.
“We’ve got a challenging game at the weekend so I don’t really want to look too far ahead of that, but with the players we have got in the squad, we should be higher than where we are. So it’s one step at a time and we need that win as soon as possible.”
Villa chief executive Christian Purslow echoed Gerrard’s view that Villa want to push for Europe, as the financial backing is their from their co-owners and they are aiming high.
They did come close last season but after losing Jack Grealish and a severe dip in form, it’s going to take a rebuild to push back up the table. It’s not impossible, but Villa should take one step at a time.
Talk of Liverpool job quashed
Despite only just arriving at Villa, Gerrard was asked about the possibility of using his new team as a ‘stepping stone’ to getting the top job at his beloved Liverpool one day.
The former Liverpool captain shut that talk down.
“Everyone knows around the world what Liverpool means to me but my focus is on Aston Villa. You will never hear me say that it is a ‘stepping stone’ [to managing Liverpool]. For me, I am really proud and honoured to be in this position,” Gerrard said.
“I am all-in. I will give this job everything that it needs for it to be a success. I will be 100 per cent committed and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in football to have dreams and aspirations. They have got a world-class coach who they are very happy with. If he was to sign a lifetime deal right now, I would be very happy for them and him.”
What must Gerrard focus on?
It is clear that a newfound defensive stability and structure is going to be key to moving Villa up the table. They currently sit in 16th place, two points above the relegation zone.
Going forward they are dangerous with Danny Ings, Leon Bailey, Ollie Watkins and Emiliano Buendia who can create and score. So in attack they’re all set.
Defensively they have been too lapse so far this season as they’re conceding close to 2 goals per game, on average. But with Emiliano Martinez, Tyrone Mings and Douglas Luiz on the defensive side of the ball, Villa have plenty of quality to turn things around.
With Villa playing against Brighton and Crystal Palace in Gerrard’s first two games in charge, he has to hit the ground running before a tough run of games during December.
How quickly can Steven Gerrard translate his personality and ideas onto this Villa side?
Time will tell, but the main thing he has to do is sort out their defensive shape to try and give Villa a platform to pick up points.