After 38 Premier League games in charge, Steven Gerrard’s reign as Aston Villa came to an end recently, with the former Liverpool legend lasting just 11 months at Villa Park. It certainly wasn’t out of the blue, with Villa on an awful run of form which saw the Midlands club win just two of their opening games – culminating with the 3-0 defeat to Fulham.
Following his successful spell at Rangers in the SPFL, it’s interesting to wonder why it didn’t work out for Gerrard at Villa and what happens next for the Premier League icon.
Life Without Beale
One reason many feel it didn’t go according to plan for Gerrard because of the absence of Michael Beale from the Villa technical area. There has been speculation that many of the ideas and tactical tweaks came from Beale, who was Gerrard’s assistant at both Rangers and Villa. Some reports have claimed Beale took charge of most things from training to tactical meetings, which would have made things tougher for Gerrard when Beale left at the start of the season to become the new boss of QPR in the Championship.
Beale has certainly gone on to show just how important he is and how good he is at his job since his arrival at QPR – taking the West London outfit up to second in the Championship after a good start to the campaign. After just four months in charge of the Hoops, some teams have even tried to snap up Beale’s services, with Wolves chasing the 42-year-old and hoping to persuade him to join the Premier League side – an offer Beale rejected in favour of trying to pursue promotion with QPR.
Despite initial optimism, Gerrard’s time in charge was ultimately one that the Villa faithful were eager to move on from. The boos and chants that could be heard from the Villa end in the defeat to Fulham – the final nail in the coffin – told you all you needed to hear about what the fans wanted to happen. The Villa faithful had grown tired of the tactics, or maybe lack of tactics, that Gerrard’s Villa was following.
In Gerrard’s 38 games in charge, Villa only managed to score 4+ goals once which was against Southampton on the 5th of March this year. Caretaker Villa boss Aaron Danks did it in his first game. The narrow 4-3-3 shape failed to see big signing Phillipe Coutinho make an impact on the wing, whilst also meaning either Danny Ings or Ollie Watkins was shoved on the wing and out of their favoured position up top. Villa often failed to really break teams down and struggled to find a way through, whilst errors at a disorganised backline often cost them dearly.
Return to Ibrox?
A return to Scotland may be one way that Gerrard revitalises his career – going back to the place where it was all going so well. Gerrard, and Beale, managed to break the Celtic dominance in Scotland and even go a whole season undefeated as they clinched a historic SPFL crown.
It could be on the cards for the former England international to return to Ibrox, especially with the pressure mounting on current boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The Dutch manager has tried to change and deviate from Gerrard’s trusted method at Rangers – a gamble that has so far failed to make a difference. Rangers are currently four points adrift of Celtic in the league as well as crashing out in the group stages of the Champions League – with a whopping 19 goals conceded so far.
If van Bronckhorst's side slips up again, it might see the curtain come down on his spell at Rangers. That could open the door for Rangers to turn to the man that did so well in charge of them previously. It may even see a future reunion of Gerrard in Beale, if the pair later decide they want to get the band back together and finish what they started.
There aren’t too many options for Gerrard to choose from if he wants an immediate return to action. In terms of the Premier League, Wolves (who were rebuffed by Beale) are still looking for a new permanent manager after announcing that Steve Davis will continue in his interim role until 2023.
Bournemouth also have an interim manager in charge, but after the great job Gary O’Neil is doing in caretaker charge, it’s unlikely the Cherries will look anywhere else.
Jesse Marsch has come under fire in recent weeks with Leeds on a poor run which sees them struggle in the bottom three. Although the club have backed Marsch, that could change if results continue to go in the wrong direction.