With only one win and four defeats from their five matches, the pressure appeared to be heating up on manager Steven Gerrard, especially considering how diligent he was with the club’s summer recruitment.
Genuine quality to improve the squad arrived at Villa Park in the shape of Boubacar Kamara, Diego Carlos and Philippe Coutinho (his loan deal was made permanent), and with Johan Lange providing the funds, it looked as though Villa could make a European charge if the manager got things right.
It hasn’t exactly started off like that, though, and the club could soon rue the decision not to sign another centre-forward, with Gerrard having to rely on Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings as the only two senior strikers at the club.
Gerrard could have solved his attacking woes with a summer move for Blackburn Rovers hitman Ben Brereton Diaz, with the club setting a price tag of £20m for the player at the start of the summer.
The 23-year-old has had a whirlwind 18 months. He has represented Chile (his mother’s country of birth) at the Copa America, scoring against Bolivia in the tournament, and he has even been dubbed a “national hero” for his international exploits with the South American country.
This confidence gathered from his Copa America experience continued into last season, when he scored 22 Championship goals and supplied three assists for Rovers, and this didn’t go unnoticed.
With Ings and Watkins scoring a measly 18 goals between them last term, and the duo contributing another three in total so far this season, it still doesn’t match up to Brereton Diaz’s total from 2021/22. It’s clear that Villa need further options up top in order to truly challenge for a top-half finish, never mind getting into the European places.
Renowned football magazine FourFourTwo described the 23-year-old as a “superstar”, and with his exploits for club and country gathering momentum, Gerrard and Lange might come back to rue the day that Villa missed out on the player.