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REPORT CARD: It’s the early days, but things are looking good for Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard ‘kicked all the balls’ when he began his reign at Aston Villa with a vital 2-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.

Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings scored in the final six minutes to secure the win and end a five-game losing streak in the Premier League.

TOM COLLOMOSSE of Sportsmail was available to enforce the rule about the start of Gerrard’s revolution in Villa Park.

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard roared into the crowd after Ollie Watkins broke the dead end

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard roared into the crowd after Ollie Watkins broke the dead end

Tactic

Gerrard started with the 4-3-3 he favored last season when he guided the Rangers to the Scottish title, helping them end Celtic’s dream of winning 10 in a row.

In setup at least, there are similarities to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, with the tall, wide wingers and wide forwards moving inward to tie the game together.

Gerrard has a long way to go for his new side to attack like his childhood, although at least defensively, they were tighter.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez had to make two major saves, but Villa generally maintained his form better than at the end of the Dean Smith regime.

Gerrard took out Danny Ings midway through the second half and renewed his three forwards, with Leon Bailey on the right, Watkins down the middle and Buendia on the left. His second substitute, Ashley Young, was instrumental in the opening game.

Big calls

Gerrard said it would take time to stamp his mark on Villa, but opted to do so from day one.

Dean Smith never used Ings and Ollie Watkins together in a 4-3-3 but Gerrard did it right away, using Ings down the middle, Watkins on the left and record signing Emiliano Buendia on the right.

Gerrard started with the 4-3-3 that he favored last season at the former Rangers club

Gerrard started with the 4-3-3 that he favored last season at the former Rangers club

Gerrard started with the 4-3-3 that he favored last season at the former Rangers club

Analyzing the footage from Villa’s games in preparation for this one, Gerrard decided that Ings and Watkins weren’t working as a couple, and he sent Watkins to the flank, where he did much of his best work for Brentford.

If that puts a few noses out of place, Gerrard won’t give a damn, as he demonstrated by taking Ings out.

Bounce back manager

For the rebound factor, the first 10 minutes felt like an Olympic springboard as Villa moved forward, showing energy and bite.

However, until the goal, his display lost its force. Gerrard’s men were hesitant going forward as the effect of five consecutive losses began to show. However, you can still identify the players Gerrard is already hearing about.

Gerrard was in the ear of fourth official Stuart Attwell almost as often as his own players.

Gerrard was in the ear of fourth official Stuart Attwell almost as often as his own players.

Gerrard was in the ear of fourth official Stuart Attwell almost as often as his own players.

Matty Cash was tireless at right back and young Jacob Ramsey restored his coach’s faith after starting in midfield.

The goal would not come, until Watkins’ fabulous counterattack and shot that gave Villa the advantage.

Gerrard shook his fists and roared into the crowd with the same passion he did after scoring a yell at Anfield.

Then Tyrone Mings doubled Villa’s lead and Gerrard jumped for joy again.

Do you speak a good game?

Gerrard became one of the fiercest midfielders in the Premier League by tackling all opponents head-on and, judging from his pre-match comments, he plans to take exactly the same approach as the Aston Villa manager.

The former England captain spoke in his program notes of the ‘very high standards’ he will demand, and his intention to put Villa ‘in a better place’.

Gerrard congratulated each of the players on the pitch full time on Saturday

Gerrard congratulated each of the players on the pitch full time on Saturday

Gerrard congratulated each of the players on the pitch full time on Saturday

Gerrard was always a talkative player, as the referees would confirm, and he is no different as a coach.

Standing in the technical area for most of the match, Gerrard was in the ear of fourth official Stuart Attwell almost as often as his own players.

Full time, he congratulated each of them on the field before ordering them to party in front of the Holte End, with ‘Sweet Caroline’ singing over the tannoy.

Key issues

Two goals scored, none conceded, a first home win since September 18. What was worrying anyone?

Just as Villa finished this game, although Gerrard will know that there is still a lot to work on. Ings and Watkins were still struggling to combine, as Watkins seemed much happier in center after Ings was substituted.

Although Buendia showed some nice touches, Villa still needs more from his £ 40 million summer contract.

In the long run, Matt Targett may not be the answer on the left back.

However, there were many more positives than negatives. Mings looked like a leader again, John McGinn was great and Young played a key role as a backup. Overall, a great start for Gerrard.

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