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Steven Gerrard finds solution to Dean Smith’s biggest transfer dilemma


Steven Gerrard has made an encouraging start to life as a Premier League manager since becoming the new Aston Villa head coach last month.

His immediate objective was to reverse the club’s worrying form, with five losses on the spin enough to end former manager Dean Smith’s tenure at the club after three years in charge.

Constant improvement is the mantra that owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens have enforced ever since they took control of the football club back in 2018.

And Gerrard has already made great strides to install a winning mentality and fearless streak at Bodymoor Heath, where previously, at least at the start of the season, losing was becoming a real habit for Villa.

Two wins in his opening two games against Brighton and Crystal Palace made for the perfect start for Gerrard and his backroom team, before coming unstuck against Premier League champions City on Wednesday night.

But it was a performance that he and his players can be proud of and they’ll take great encouragement that they can get back to winning ways against an out of sorts Leicester side this weekend.

But while matters on the pitch are of utmost importance, Villa sporting director Johan Lange is working hard behind the scenes to devise January transfer plans with the winter window opening in four weeks time.

During the summer, Villa spent £95million on talent, including Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings, while Jack Grealish was sold for a £100million record breaking transfer fee.

Villa also recruited Ashley Young on a free and took Axel Tuanzebe on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season. But Villa were linked with a whole host of players and it seemed their list of summer transfer targets was never ending.

Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse was of particular interest to Villa, and was the subject of a £25million bid.

That offer was swiftly rejected by the St. Mary’s club and England international Ward-Prowse signed a new deal at his boyhood club soon after. The midfielder was a prime target for former Villa boss Smith, but it was one the club didn’t manage to get over the line.

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With the January window set to open in a matter of weeks, new head coach Gerrard will be finalising plans with Lange, but a player of Ward-Prowse’s ilk is unlikely to be named on list of targets now that the former Rangers boss has so far found success in implementing a new system at Bodymoor Heath to the one used by Smith previously.

The 4-2-3-1 shape favoured by Smith would have got the best out of Ward-Prowse, if Villa were eventually successful in their pursuit, and many Villa fans wanted the club to go back in and pay what Southampton demanded for their skipper back in the summer.

However, now that Gerrard has deployed a 4-3-3 shape, with John McGinn, Jacob Ramsey, Morgan Sanson, Douglas Luiz and Carney Chukwuemeka all options to fill those two positions either side of a deeper midfielder, a box to box midfielder will not be the priority for Gerrard in January.

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