Following an international break that offered a veritable cornucopia of news and changes, Aston Villa look to dust their shoulders off from the 1-0 loss to Southampton with a new boss at the helm. Steven Gerrard, the former Liverpool man with a head of hair so perfectly molded that it ventures into the unnerving, takes the helm from the largely beloved and former chief, Dean Smith.
Without getting too far down into the weeds of tactics, I’ll leave that for my 7500 colleagues, Gerrard likes to play out of the 4-3-3 formation, with the wingers playing a role similar to a traditional number 10 — something of a 4-3-2-1 that should really help the likes of Emi Buendia shine on the right side.
Elsewhere up front, Gerrard will have a variety of options. Looking at the squad, the knee-jerk team sheet would have Ollie Watkins on the left and Danny Ings in the middle. Ings is coming off COVID-related illness, so there is the chance that Watkins could feature in the middle, with Ings coming off the bench. In that scenario, Leon Bailey presumably starts on the left. In goal, Emi Martinez strikes a familiar figure in the net with a back four of Matt Target to the left, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza in the middle, and Matty Cash on the right. Douglas Luiz will miss second consecutive match through injury, pushing Marvelous Nakamba to start alongside John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey. Along with Luiz, Morgan Sanson will be unavailable to play.
Brighton & Hove Albion, a club name that feels more like a high end soap you would find in a Williams Sonoma store, haven’t won a match since September 19th despite their charming name. Over the last three league matches, they have drawn 1-1 with Newcastle United, 2-2 at Liverpool, and lost to Manchester City 4-1. Despite all of this, the Albion are still sitting pretty at 7th in the table. Striker Leandro Trassard (3 goals, 1 assist), Shane Duffy at center back, and Yves Bissouma in the midfield are players to watch for Brighton. They will be without starting keeper Robert Sanchez who is serving a red card suspension.
PREDICTION: Brighton are high up the table compared to Villa, but it’s plain to see that this is a team that Villa can beat if they play to their potential. Injuries will be an issue and Douglas Luiz being out makes me very uncomfortable, but with the new manager in Gerrard and a revitalized atmosphere at Villa Park, I can see a 2-1 win to welcome in the new era.