Villa moved swiftly following a dismal display at Craven Cottage to dispense with the services of Steven Gerrard. The beleaguered manager had barely made it through media duties post-match before the club released a statement confirming his departure.
GERRARD SACKEDEmbed from Getty Images
The former Liverpool midfielder managed just 11 months at Villa Park, having been poached in a high-profile deal after guiding Rangers to the SPL title.
The decision to opt for Gerrard must now be regarded as a colossal miss-step by the club’s hierarchy, which now finds itself with an expensively assembled squad teetering above the relegation zone on goal difference.
The writing for Gerrard has increasingly been on the wall, with concerns about Villa’s late 2021/22 season form only lessened by the prospect of new signings and a pre-season. Whilst the signings arrived, the new campaign has produced just 2 wins from 12, with an alarming 6 defeats.
As jaw-dropping as Villa’s inability to progress has been the collapse of any recognisable style of play. Watching Villa had become a turgid affair that could not be regarded as in any way entertaining, let alone effective in winning football matches.
The side has certainly suffered injuries to key players, notably Carlos, Kamara and Digne, but has also seen the deterioration of the likes of Coutinho, McGinn, Ings and Mings.
Big money signings such as the likes of Leon Bailey need to urgently demonstrate that they are not to be considered Villa’s modern Bosko Balaban’s. History does and can repeat itself unless we are very, very careful.
Further, we’ve endured the development of Ramsey stalling before our eyes, Buendia used increasingly sparingly and veteran Ashley Young become our most dependable player. All has not been well for some time, with a nagging sense of inevitability beginning to creep in.
FULHAM: 3-0 DEFEATEmbed from Getty Images
Make no mistake, this was a drubbing. A stinker of a display, a disaster, and ultimately the end of Gerrard’s reign.
Before the dubious sending off of Douglas Luiz and a harsh penalty awarded against Cash for handball, the damage was done.
Villa had been bullied and out-played from the off, with Martinez to thank at half-time for keeping the score at 1-0 following a string of fine saves. We lacked any obvious game-plan, energy, urgency or intent. It was truly an embarrassing spectacle that suitably defined the reasons for Gerrard’s downfall.
As the Villa bench looked on, as though in solemn mourning at a funeral, Fulham showed the kind of dynamism and purpose not seen in our side for quite some time. It was a showcase of probing passing, smart movement and ruthlessness in front of goal when it mattered.
By contrast, Villa were feeble, adding to a string of sub-par appearances such as those witnessed at Forest and Leeds. We were completely disjointed, unable to play the ball out, counter and guilty of aimlessly kicking the ball upfield or entirely out of play.
With Gerrard gone, it would be remiss to overlook that not everything can be levelled at one man. Individual displays, however shackled or impacted by a manager out of their depth, cannot be excused. Very few amongst the squad have shown anything like the qualities they allegedly possess nor are rewarded for with exorbitant wages. Even fewer have exerted the effort expected whilst representing our football club.
The new manager has his work cut out, wrestling this season back towards something sensible, reconnecting a disenfranchised fanbase and putting the club back on a trajectory that resembles the owner’s ambitions. Villa have to identify and recruit the right man, which will be far from straightforward.
The club’s CEO Christian Purslow will also forever be measured at Villa against his statement outlining his vision of “continuous improvement”. One wonders if his own performance is benchmarked against such a standard.
This is not a continuous improvement by any measure; it’s now a fight first and foremost for Premier League survival.