Steven Gerrard exclusive interview: Aston Villa boss striving to close the gap to the elite ahead of Liverpool showdown

Steven Gerrard is making ready to face the membership he represented greater than 700 instances as a participant, led by the supervisor who gave him his break in teaching, in the information that something apart from victory may very well be terminal to their Premier League title hopes.

The stakes may hardly be larger for Liverpool. But for Gerrard, talking to Sky Sports at Aston Villa’s Bodymoor Heath coaching floor straight after his press convention, there isn’t a room for sentiment. “My job is to get the three points,” he says.

Such an final result would have a seismic influence on the title race however it could be important for the dwelling aspect too. Aston Villa sat sixteenth, solely two factors above the drop zone, when Gerrard arrived in November. A win over Liverpool would carry them into the prime half.

Villa haven’t completed larger than eleventh in the Premier League for over a decade and whereas Gerrard has extra bold goals for the membership in the long-term, bringing that run to an finish this season would cap six months of regular progress since his appointment.

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“I think the main positive is that the players are really happy and they have bought into our identity and our style,” he tells Sky Sports. “We have had loads of success in loads of video games from how we arrange and I believe we’re getting the greatest out of loads of individuals.

“We nonetheless see loads of areas the place we are able to get higher and enhance. We’ve had patches of video games the place we have been very inconsistent. But I believe that is down to particular person moments or particular person errors slightly than how we arrange or how we play.

“I feel the players are on board with the things we are trying to put in place and we are feeling more comfortable game by game.”

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Gerrard has had to do issues on the fly having arrived from Rangers to change Dean Smith mid-season however efforts have been made to enhance issues off the pitch in addition to on it.

“We have had to try to manoeuvre the team away from danger and get into a positive position in the table but alongside that we have analysed all of the players, all of the players we have on loan, and some of the staff,” provides Gerrard.

“We have made some alterations around the building in terms of rules and other things, but this summer will give us a chance to breathe, reflect and reset. It will also give us the luxury of a pre-season, where you can really nail down your identity and style.

“To do this if you’re taking part in each six or seven days is an actual problem since you get restricted time on the coaching pitch, however general it has been optimistic.

“I’m content with where we are and I see signs of progress.”

The progress is most obvious in defence. Villa are compact and organised beneath Gerrard. Only 4 sides have conceded fewer targets or saved extra clear sheets in the Premier League since his appointment whereas solely three have confronted fewer photographs on aim or fared higher in phrases of anticipated targets in opposition to.

There have been 10 defeats – greater than Gerrard would have appreciated – however solely two by a margin of a couple of aim. Villa are “a work-in progress”, in his phrases, however they don’t seem to be simple to beat.

“I think it’s down to how we set up out of possession, our distances and our shape, but also a massive effort from the players in terms of their application and commitment, because they’re the ones who are going out there and carrying it out,” says Gerrard.

“When you come into a new job and you are bringing your style and your way, it’s important you get buy-in from the players and these players have gone out and put their bodies on the line.

“They have actually purchased into our form out of possession and that is serving to us to defend higher.”

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Aston Villa supervisor Steven Gerrard says he’s absolutely targeted on making an attempt to win in opposition to his outdated membership Liverpool regardless of his previous at the membership

They will want to proceed in the similar vein in opposition to Liverpool.

Villa had simply 38 per cent of the possession throughout their 1-0 loss at Anfield in December and Liverpool’s high quality is such that the determine is probably going to be comparable at Villa Park.

For Gerrard, so accustomed to dominating opponents each as a participant at Liverpool and as a supervisor in his earlier function at Rangers, that change of dynamic has required some adaptation.

“It’s different,” he says with a smile. “But listen, you can still win football matches like that. A lot of the success we had at Rangers was in Europe, when we had less of the ball.

“There have gotten to make sure conditions the place you are ready to counter-attack, to play a transition recreation, or counter press and steal the ball excessive up the pitch.

“Of course, in a really perfect world, everybody needs the ball, and I believe with time, and if we recruit nicely sufficient, we’ll enhance our possession numbers as a result of, finally, in the massive image, we do need to be a possession-based staff that controls bigger components of video games.

Mohamed Salah's penalty gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in December

“But a lot of our top performances this season have come when having less possession and I’m OK with that. When you’re playing against world-class players and world-class teams, at times you have got to be pragmatic.

“I do not suppose it really works to be gung-ho and careless.”

Least of all when you are coming up against players as deadly as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz.

“Of course, these three gamers have been an enormous half of our preparations,” says Gerrard.

“In a recreation of this magnitude, you’ve got received to strive to stifle and restrict these proficient gamers as a result of in the event you give them time and house and neglect them, they’re very succesful of hurting you.

“But they’re not the only three. When you’re talking about the top teams at the top end of the Premier League, normally they are littered with top international players.

“That’s the dimension of the problem, however at the similar time, in the event you can handle to get the greatest out of your staff, in case your prime gamers can step up and everybody can go above and past, nothing is not possible.”

Aston Villa sit ninth in the Premier League since Steven Gerrard's appointment

Gerrard needs his gamers to strategy Tuesday’s recreation with that concept in thoughts however in the long term, he hopes Villa will go into conferences with the Premier League’s elite as extra of a match for them.

He started the course of of strengthening his squad in the direction of that intention with the additions of Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Digne and Calum Chambers in January and sees this summer time’s switch window as a possibility to proceed fine-tuning his personnel.

“We have got a lot of volume here, so I see it as more about quality than quantity,” he says. “I don’t think we need to go and rip everything up and start again.

“We had a optimistic window in January the place we tried to add gamers who may improve what we already had and now it is a case of including high quality to take the staff to the subsequent degree.

“I don’t think we need numbers. We’ve already got a lot of options. But there are areas of the team where we would like to add some quality because we think that can help us take huge strides.”

He hopes Coutinho can be half of it. The Brazil worldwide had to accept a spot on the bench in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Burnley, with Emiliano Buendia shining in his place, however Gerrard is raring to make his mortgage everlasting and sees competitors for locations as wholesome.

“When we decide to play with one number 10, it may be that only one of them can play, but I’ve shown many times that we can play with two number 10s in the team and I think they are both capable of playing as eights as well in certain situations,” he says.

“Ultimately, they are two great players and I’m lucky to have them at my disposal. We rested Phil on Saturday and Emi was fantastic, but that was Burnley. Liverpool is a different game and I’ll pick the team that I think is going to do the best job.

“Of course, my job is to handle the scenario when gamers do not play, however I’ll at all times be sincere and genuine with them. I’ll by no means clean them and. I’ll at all times clarify my causes. Not everybody can play each recreation, however at the similar time the squad is de facto vital over the course of the season.”

Emiliano Buendia was most popular to Philippe Coutinho in opposition to Burnley

Liverpool’s go to to Villa Park is a formidable check of the progress to this point this season however does Gerrard see any classes for Villa in Liverpool’s rise beneath Klopp?

“I’m not sure lessons is the right word, but what I will say is that he’s obviously had fantastic support from the owners,” he says. “He’s been given time to build and time for the progress to happen.

“When you go into these golf equipment, it does take a specific amount of time. It’s very tough to change all the things in a single day. But I’m additionally conscious that it is a outcomes enterprise and I’m not neglecting that.

“We just have to make sure we make the right decisions and everyone is pulling in the right direction. When everyone is aligned and connected in how to take things forward, I think that is when you get to the end destination quicker.”

That alignment is evident to see at Liverpool and Gerrard believes the similar applies at Villa, the place he’s working intently with chief govt Christian Purslow and sporting director Johan Lange. “We have owners who have invested in the team and shown incredible support,” he says. “We are all on the same page and we are really ambitious.”

It will definitely require some ambition if Villa are to take factors off Liverpool however Gerrard’s dedication to just do that’s apparent.

“We know there is still a gap to teams like Liverpool but it’s our job to do everything we can to close it,” he says.

“That is what we’re striving for.”

Watch Aston Villa vs Liverpool reside on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Tuesday; kick-off 8pm

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