Here's what Graham Potter and Brighton can expect from a Steven Gerrard team

Brighton travel to Villa Park on Saturday for Steven Gerrard’s first game in charge of Aston Villa.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 9:44 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 9:46 am
Steven Gerrard had a successful but short spell with Glasgow Rangers

Ex-Villains boss Dean Smith became the latest Premier League manager on the chopping block after a cascade of autumn dismissals.

Following Watford’s sacking of Xisco Munoz, the dominoes began to fall; Daniel Farke, Nuno Espirito Santo and Steve Bruce quickly tumbled as clubs at the foot of the league sought new appointments.

In fact, Burnley manager Sean Dyche is now the only survivor inside the Premier League’s bottom five.

The Clarets have backed their long-serving boss for almost a decade, but Aston Villa felt it was time to move on from Dean Smith and roll the dice on a shinier future.

Despite his adverse start to this season, Smith will be remembered at Villa Park for returning them to the Premier League after three consecutive seasons in the Championship before his arrival.

During his reign, he also helped develop Jack Grealish into a Three Lions regular, which in turn provided the club with a £100m transfer fee from Manchester City.

The fashionable, box-office superstar propelled Villa’s brand to new heights – and perhaps the board felt they now needed a more glamourous manager to keep them in the spotlight.

The appointment of Steven Gerrard looks a shrewd one on the surface; not only did Gerrard boast an excellent record at Rangers, but he is also household name likely to enhance viewership amongst neutrals.

Gerrard delivered an unbeaten season at Rangers last campaign and ended Celtic’s nine-year reign at the top of Scottish football.

His impressive - albeit short - record suggests Gerrard is ready for the unparalleled challenge of Premier League management.

And Villa, who instantly reinvested the Grealish transfer fund in Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, now have a manager who is keen on showcasing attacking football.

Gerrard has a rather fluid and malleable tactical style, publicly stating in interviews that he has drawn upon former managers such as Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier.

Since Gerrard arrived at the Ibrox, Rangers have largely adopted a possession-based, high-pressing brand of football, although the manager has been known to alter his approach depending on the opposition.

It is likely Gerrard’s first focus will be positional training off the ball, encouraging his side to press as a unit and regain the ball high up the pitch.

Operating with a 4-3-3 formation in most games, Gerrard used a core of three midfield engines to help with ball retention, much like Jurgen Klopp has instilled at Liverpool.

The wingers in the front three were told to pick up very central positions behind the striker, almost acting as No. 10s to shut off passing lanes through the midfield.

In attack, this narrow approach lured the opposition’s defence to come infield, allowing plenty of space for the fullbacks to maraud forwards down the flanks.

Left-back Borna Barisic claimed seven goal contributions for Rangers last season and right-back James Tavernier found the net a dozen times, even if over half came from the penalty-spot.

If Gerrard’s Rangers are anything to go by, Brighton should be mindful of Matt Targett and Matty Cash on Saturday.

The former Liverpool captain also has two ready-made engines in midfield to fit the system in John McGinn and Douglas Luiz: youngster Jacob Ramsey could complete the trio if he impresses with his discipline and work rate in training.

Summer signings Buendia and Bailey are in pole position to operate the wide spots, which only leaves one space available up top for Ings or Ollie Watkins.

Whether Gerrard is brave enough to drop either of the strikers however, is a different story altogether.

For Brighton to emerge victorious at the weekend, they must be disciplined in their shape and cautious of Gerrard’s high-pressing game.