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Four things fans learned as Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace

Aston Villa have ended their five-game losing streak in impressive fashion with wins against Brighton and Crystal Palace so far in the Steven Gerrard era.

While the Brighton success was just a glimpse of this new Villa side, the Palace game gave fans a greater insight into what they can expect from Gerrard’s team moving forward. The 2-1 win highlighted how four things have changed since the new man arrived.

Beating a press

Crystal Palace recorded a total of 210 pressures throughout this fixture and pressed Villa relentlessly throughout. Villa, meanwhile, displayed the ability to play against a press, which in games such as the 3-1 loss to Arsenal they struggled with.

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Arsenal recorded 135 pressures in that game and penned Villa in throughout the game. However, against Palace Villa were able to beat the press with quick combinations between the likes of Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey and Jacob Ramsey. The movement paired with the quick passing shows exactly what Gerrard wants from his side.

Watkins preferred?

Gerrard decided to reward Watkins for scoring the first goal of the new Villa era by opting to use him as the lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation. Danny Ings dropped to the bench after recording just 18 touches against Brighton.

Watkins led the side with 21 pressures and looked reminiscent of the striker fans witnessed score 14 Premier League goals last season. From driving runs to dropping deep to help his team-mates, Watkins was a key reason why Gerrard was able to implement the style he wanted in the first half, and he could be favoured moving forward.

Luiz role change

Douglas Luiz returned following an injury that had kept him out of the last three games. He was brought on for Jacob Ramsey, which possibly hints at a change in role for him under Gerrard.

Prior to the new boss arriving, Luiz would occupy the defensive midfielder role in front of the back four and regularly compete with Marvelous Nakamba for a place. However, Gerrard opted to bring him on for Ramsey and keep Nakamba on the pitch. This allowed Luiz to play in a more advanced and flexible role.

This system has worked effectively this season, as the game against Everton also showed. John McGinn went off with an injury, which saw Nakamba coming on and Luiz being pushed further forward.

He ended up assisting Matty Cash for the first goal, and this suggests Gerrard has identified his threat further up the pitch and wants to change his role within the team.

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Solid

Villa had just 37% possession in this fixture but remained solid throughout. In Gerrard’s first two games they have conceded just six and eight shots respectively, whereas prior to this they were averaging 13.6 shots faced per game.

Gerrard has clearly improved Villa defensively and bar a lapse in concentration in the dying embers of the game at Palace, they would have recorded a second clean sheet too.

He reduced Rangers’ goals conceded from 50 to 13 goals in his time at the club. He builds his teams from the back and it is already taking shape at Villa.

They will face Manchester City on Wednesday, which will be Gerrard’s biggest challenge so far as head coach of any club. He will need his side to remain solid defensively but also pose a threat to one of the best defences in the league.

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