Aston Villa's Philippe Coutinho takes a tumble against West Ham

What’s wrong with Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa? Style issues, formation changes and injuries are all part of a slow start

Aston Villa languishes in the bottom half of the Premier League after losing three of its first four matches – and now faces daunting tests against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Villa fans were booed after the home loss to West Ham and Steven Gerrard is under pressure to turn the tide.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of the Premier League game against West Ham

The club have made a few summer signings, securing the permanent return of Philippe Coutinho (£17m), Diego Carlos (£26m) and Boubacar Kamara in hopes of breaking into the European places this season.

But their poor start against the 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th-placed sides means they have lost nine of their last 15 Premier League games and face the top two sides in the space of three days this week.

Gerrard comfortably guided Villa to safety last year, but nine months later the rot has set in again – what’s wrong?

Lots of territory but not enough opportunities

“I thought we were in control of a lot of the game, but we never really created enough to bother their keeper,” Gerrard said after their loss to West Ham.

Villa entered the final third 68 times to the visitors’ 44 and had 57 per cent possession, but only managed three from nine shots on target and failed to create a big chance. This is the second time they have failed to score this season.

Aston Villa statistics

It was the same familiar story in which Villa have plenty of territory but are unable to create decent chances from the positions they maneuver into.

Only Liverpool (330) and Manchester City (321) have entered the final third more times than Gerrard’s side (280) this season, but Villa have an xG of 4.24, sitting 14th in the Premier League.

Aston Villa's shot card so far in the 2022/23 Premier League season

They are in the same position for chances created (35) while their shooting total of 49 ranks 13th.

Villa should perhaps take a different approach to their attacks by sending the ball into the box – they have attempted the most crosses excluding corners (77) and the fifth most shots from outside from the center of the surface (19).

Aston Villa's flanking attacks

At least Gerrard seems aware of what is needed.

“Someone to come forward to provide a good cross or a bit of combination play to get a good shot,” he said after the game against West Ham.

But does he know how to achieve it?

What is the best Villa system?

At the moment, Gerrard seems to be struggling to identify the best system for these players.

He flipped between a 4-3-3 and a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 in the first four games with varying success.

At Bournemouth he played with wingers and lost 2-0. Two personnel changes were therefore made and a line-up change which brought victory over Everton and “one of the strongest performances” since he was at the club.

Yet Gerrard then made three changes to return to a 4-3-3 at Crystal Palace where they were beaten 3-1. So back to 4-1-2-1-2 against West Ham and this time a lackluster defeat.

And now against Arsenal and Manchester City? Leon Bailey has had some good moments on the wing and a 4-3-3 formation can be spring-loaded for a counter-attack against two teams that are supposed to control possession.

Lucas Digne and Matty Cash are encouraged to advance in either system, but the handbrake should be on this week.

Are there any extenuating circumstances?

The loss of Carlos to injury already looks to be a highlight of Villa’s season. The signing of the experienced Sevilla centre-back’s statement was Gerrard’s own verdict on Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa’s partnership, a decision underlined when he stripped Mings of the captaincy.

It was a big decision but when Carlos went badly injured against Everton, sidelining the club until next year, the disruption to the defense had, in a sense, been for naught. Gerrard finds himself leaning on those he felt should change.

What does Gerard say?

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Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard thinks game against West Ham was well balanced

“We don’t have enough points on the board. I take responsibility and responsibility for that, but I want to fix it and hope my players feel the same.

“It’s the players who have to act now, we’re going to help and support them in every way we can, but it also has to come from within. We have two very difficult games now, but I have confidence and confidence that we can go out there and get results.”

What’s wrong with Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa? Style issues, formation changes and injuries are all part of a slow start

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