Steven Gerrard has given Aston Villa’s campaign a jolt following the side’s impressive draw with Premier League champions Manchester City on Saturday evening, and they might have even won the match if it wasn’t for a controversial VAR decision that disallowed a goal for offside.
The draw ensured Villa didn’t slip to a fourth consecutive Premier League defeat and will give the side some momentum going forward, especially in their performance which was good enough to secure three points.
The club’s summer transfer business was solid and quality with the likes of Boubacar Kamara, Diego Carlos and Philippe Coutinho all being brought in on permanent deals. Deadline day saw moves for Leander Dendoncker in a permanent swoop from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Jan Bednarek joined on loan.
Therefore, there really is no excuse now for Villa to be languishing near the foot of the table.
It was perhaps a move that didn’t happen which might well be Gerrard’s saving grace this season, though, as the 42-year-old managed to keep hold of Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz.
Arsenal bid three times for the Villa player on transfer deadline day as a move was rejected and given the need for extra quality in the squad, Lange could strike gold with this controversial call.
Indeed, with the midfielder’s contract due to expire at the end of the season, the club could have easily cashed in on the player instead of potentially losing him for nothing next summer. Instead, they have gambled with keeping an important cog to their side.
It’s clear the club wants to keep hold of him, with Gerrard rejecting a £30m bid from an unnamed Premier League club in January, he could be a key player this season for the club.
The Brazilian is in fact joint top scorer for Villa this season with two goals, alongside Danny Ings and Leon Bailey, proving that despite operating in a midfield role, he can be a huge attacking threat, especially from corner kicks, where he seems to have developed a canny knack for scoring directly from them.
The 24-year-old ranked seventh in the Villa squad last season with an average rating of 6.77 as per WhoScored, scoring twice and providing three assists, while having the second highest pass success rate with 86.8% (of players who played more than five matches).
He ranks highly again in that department this season with a success rate of 86.6% in line with last term and also the third-best rate in Gerrard’s ranks, only behind Jacob Ramsey and Calum Chambers.
Former Villa favourite Gabby Agbonlahor dubbed Luiz as “outstanding” at the end of last season and it looks like he has carried the same vein of form into this one, despite the links with Arsenal on deadline day.
The next move for Lange will be to tie him down on a long-term deal, otherwise letting him leave for free could be a disaster, not just from a financial point of view, but also from a playing perspective. That is precisely why deciding to keep him now is a big decision for the Villans to take.
Possessing the ability to dictate play and keep things safe in the middle of the park, Gerrard will be in need of a few players who are more assured about things and the Brazilian’s passing certainly falls into that category. It’s a risky decision but ultimately, one that might well be rewarding for the club if they stay in the division and improve upon their early results.