Their last match saw the Villans claim a share of the spoils in a credible 1-1 draw with reigning champions Manchester City, and Gerrard will be hoping this is a sign of things to come.
Due to the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II, it’s highly likely Villa won’t play their next match until after the international break, giving the 42-year-old some time to assess his team and plan ahead.
One of Villa’s main issues is at the heart of defence. Brazilian centre back Diego Carlos was brought in to firm up a backline which conceded 54 league goals last season.
However, disaster struck in the 2-1 win against Everton last month as the player suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and reports stating that he would miss the majority of the season. This convinced Gerrard to delve back into the transfer market for a replacement, with a deadline day loan move for Jan Bednarek adding cover for the injured Brazilian.
Perhaps he should have signed free agent and reported target Jason Denayer, though, with the Belgian comparable to Carlos according to FBref’s similar player model, which suggests that he would have been a like-for-like replacement.
Both players offer a significant goal threat from the heart of defence, with each of them scoring three times last season.
In terms of passing, Denayer held a slightly higher pass completion rate compared to Carlos (94.5% to 88.4%), although both have the ability to distribute the ball from the defence extremely well.
Carlos appears to be slightly more physical than the Belgian, with more tackles won (38 to six), a better aerial duels win rate (68.3% to 46.2%) and more blocks won (58 to 21). However, when it comes to temperament and maturity, Denayer appears to hold a slight upper hand, being cautioned only twice all season compared to the Brazilian’s four yellow cards and one red.
Despite some differences in key attributes, the two defenders aren’t afraid to get stuck in and can begin attacks from the back with ease.
Johan Lange should have made the move for Denayer when Carlos was injured if Gerrard wanted someone who could slide into the team without a fuss, and the Villa sporting director could well rue that mistake on the “powerful” 27-year-old, as hailed by former Lyon recruitment chief Florian Maurice.