Brentford boss Thomas Frank believes Steven Gerrard has had a similar impact at Aston Villa as Ralf Rangnick has had at Manchester United.
Gerrard replaced Dean Smith at Villa in November and has won four of his seven fixtures in charge, losing on three occasions – though each of those defeats has come to one of the top three teams; Manchester City, Liverpool and, most recently, Chelsea.
The Liverpool great will be back in the dugout for Sunday’s trip to Brentford, having missed the Boxing Day defeat at Chelsea due to COVID-19, and Frank believes Gerrard is comparable to another new manager in the Premier League – United’s interim boss Rangnick, who has won three of his four games so far, albeit in slightly unconvincing fashion.
“I think he’s done well, it’s like Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United. I think [Ralf] is a brilliant manager, just like Steven Gerrard is a brilliant manager,” said Frank.
“I think it needs to be measured over time instead of three games, because you can have a good start and what do you do then if we’re in a bad spell? I think it’s difficult to say if it’s fantastic or really bad, obviously if you won or lost all your games, then it’s pretty clear.
“I think he’s done well and I think he will do very well at Villa.”
For his part, Gerrard is relishing being able to coach Villa in person after his spell in isolation.
“I had a chance to rest in terms of being at home and away from it, but the work never stopped,” he said. “You’re still watching the sessions back, still having recruitment meetings – I’ve absolutely worked my Zoom and Microsoft Teams this week.
“I always want to be here. I want to be here and on the job itself. It’s nice to be back.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brentford – Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney joked “the year 11s stole our ball” after Brentford’s defeat to City in midweek, but he will be hoping to see more chances against a Villa defence missing the suspended Tyrone Mings. The forward netted in the draw between the sides earlier in the season.
Aston Villa – Emiliano Buendia
Ollie Watkins will be hoping for a scoring return to his former club, and it might be that Emiliano Buendia is key to providing the ammunition. The Argentine lashed in a stunner in the reverse fixture in August and has either scored (three) or assisted (one) a goal in all four of his league games against Brentford.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Villa won 2-1 against Crystal Palace in their last Premier League game in London. Only once in their last eight campaigns in the competition (since 2011-12) have the Villans won consecutive games in the capital, winning at Fulham and Arsenal last season.
– Brentford won their first league game in both 2020 (4-0 v Bristol City) and 2021 (1-0 v Luton), last doing so in three consecutive calendar years between 1990 and 1992.
– None of Villa’s nine Premier League away games this season has finished level (W3 L6), with two of their three victories on the road coming in their three such games under Gerrard.
– Villa have won four of their last five Premier League away games against promoted sides (L1), more than they had in their previous 22 such games in the competition (W3 D8 L11).
– Brentford are unbeaten in their last seven league games against Villa (W3 D4), with all three of their victories coming in home games.