A new era dawns at Villa Park today as Steven Gerrard takes charge of his first game as Aston Villa manager when they take on Brighton this afternoon.
The former Liverpool captain was appointed as Dean Smith’s replacement during the international break, and having had a few days to work with the players on the training ground, he will be keen to put his early plans into place for the visit of the Seagulls.
Given Villa’s terrible recent run of form – they’ve lost their last five games in the Premier League – Gerrard may be tempted to ring the changes and make some ruthless calls in terms of his starting line-up.
Here is a look at how Villa might line up for Gerrard’s first game in charge of the Villans against Brighton on Saturday afternoon.
In goal, Emiliano Martinez will be hoping to kickstart life under Gerrard with a clean sheet, with the former Arsenal stopper having not recorded a shutout since the 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford back in late September.
The back four will be boosted by the return of Ezri Konsa from suspension and he should be partnered alongside club captain Tyrone Mings, with Gerrard confirming that at least for the short-term, the England international will retain the armband.
In midfield, Marvelous Nakamba could play the holding role if Gerrard chooses to go with a 4-3-3, with John McGinn and 20-year-old Jacob Ramsey playing slightly further forward of the Zimbabwe man and being given the licence to roam forward and break into the penalty box.
The new Villa boss will also have some big calls to make in attack, with decisions to be made on whether both Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings start or whether he drops one to the bench.
If Gerrard decides that Watkins can play off the left, and Ings through the middle, then the 41-year-old could also look to unleash Leon Bailey on the right-hand side despite his travels earlier this week on international duty. That means Emiliano Buendia drops to the bench following some poor performances of late.
Predicted XI: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Nakamba, Ramsey, McGinn; Bailey, Ings, Watkins.