Steven Gerrard is the new Aston Villa manager
Steven Gerrard is the new Aston Villa manager

Steven Gerrard: Why Aston Villa job will be tough for new boss

Steven Gerrard never finished lower than eighth as a player or manager and has joined a club currently occupying 16th in the Premier League.

Aston Villa have conceded 13 goals in their last five games whereas their new manager’s Rangers team only let in 13 in the entirety of their 2020-21 Scottish Premiership campaign.

If the task has changed for Gerrard, so has the context.

A five-match losing streak cost Dean Smith his job - Rangers only lost four of their last 76 league games under Gerrard.

But if the differences between the leagues make comparisons both dramatic and yet difficult to measure, they illustrate the job Gerrard did in Glasgow and the scope for improvement in the West Midlands.

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Rangers defence incredible under Gerrard

Rangers’ unbeaten season last year was just the second in the Scottish top flight since the 19th century.

They set a record by only conceding 13 times in a season (the lowest in English league history with 30 or more games is 15, set by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2004-05).

The Gers had two runs of seven consecutive clean sheets and did not concede in the first 652 minutes of the league campaign.

It was helped by two goalkeepers with very high save percentages: Allan McGregor (85.3) and his deputy Joe McLaughlin (88.2).

Rangers completed the campaign conceding only four goals at home. They let in only three between the 30th and the 75th minutes of games.

They also won all 19 home matches, scoring 57 and conceding just four. Home and away, Rangers scored more than seven times as many goals as they conceded (92-13).

Not so good this term

Admittedly, Rangers’ defensive record has declined this season: they have conceded 13 already.

Likewise, their record in Europe has got poorer. They only lost six of their first 45 games under Gerrard in continental competitions before being beaten in four of eight this season.


But Villa, who have lost their last two home league games and seven already in 2021, may look enviously at Gerrard’s record at Ibrox.

He leaves them unbeaten at home in 26 in the Scottish Premiership while they only lost one of their first 21 European matches at Ibrox on his watch.

Villa’s fortunes, meanwhile, have been dramatically different.

They have the division’s worst defensive record over their last five games. Over the last six they have allowed opponents 104 shots.

Villa were in a rut defensively

Arguably, their defensive decline dates back to the start of 2021.

Villa had the second highest expected goals against (xGA) in matches last season after the January 1, with only West Brom faring worse.

xga in pl post jan

They only conceded 32 goals from an xGA of 40.95, which reflected fine goalkeeping. Over the course of last season, Villa beat their xGA by 10.97, the second-most in the division.

This season, however, their xGA is 18.25 and they have conceded 20 times.

Martinez having a regression season

In short, Emi Martinez has stopped saving them. Villa currently have the lowest save percentage, at just 59.2, in the Premier League.

Last season, when the Argentina goalkeeper was in better form, they had the highest, at 76.8 percent. Based on Post Shot xG (PSxG), Martinez over-performed by +7.4 according to the on-target shots he faced, ranking him second best in the league.

What is Post-Shot xG?

  • Post-Shot xG is calculated after the attempt on goal has been carried out, if the goalkeeper is required to make a save. It takes into account the quality of the shot the keeper has faced.

This season, Martinez has allowed three more goals than would have been expected based on the attempts faced, with a PSxG difference (PSxG - Goals) of -3.1, making him the third worst keeper on that metric through 11 games.

martinez psxG

Gerrard needs to sure up the defence and reduce the number and quality of attempts they are conceding as a team, and that should have a knock on effect on Martinez's form.

Fewer chances being created

In attack, Villa’s total of 14 goals is flattering. Their xG of 12.59 is the fifth-lowest in the division.

Ollie Watkins is something of an exception, with two goals from an xG of 3.20 (and 0.38 xG/95), but it should be a concern that others are not having enough chances created for them.

Danny Ings’ xG per 95 of 0.25 is down on 0.36 for Southampton last season and at least 0.50 in each of his previous four campaigns.

AVL xG leaders

But the xG per 95 of Leon Bailey (0.14), Emi Buendia (0.11), John McGinn (0.08) highlights a lack of opportunities, even though each outperformed his xG.

There is a contrast with last season when Jack Grealish (0.20), Ross Barkley (0.20) had a considerably higher xG per 95.

Attack an issue in absence of Grealish

Grealish’s creativity has also been missed.

He had an expected assists (xA) per 95 minutes of 0.34 whereas now Buendia (0.21) leads the way for Villa.

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But as Gerrard looks to get off to a fine start as manager, one area where his team can do better is the beginning of games.

Villa have been outscored 4-0 in the first 10 minutes and 7-1 in the first 30. In contrast, last season, they won the first 10 minutes by 8-2 and the first 20 by 14-6.

Villa were fourth in the first-half table last season and they are bottom of it now.

Likewise Villa started last season so well they were fifth when 2021 started. Now they are fifth from bottom.

Steven Gerrard has built a reputation of coaching a team who were incredibly tough to beat while being able to create chances.

At this current moment, he inherits a Villa team who aren't either of those things.

The ex-Liverpool star has a job on his hands to turn the ship around at Villa Park, with this being a tougher task than many may think.

Steven Gerrard has been appointed the new head coach of Aston Villa
ALSO READ: Steven Gerrard has been appointed the new head coach of Aston Villa

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