Gerrard to tighten things up
The Steven Gerrard era of Aston Villa begins on Saturday, with Dean Smith having been sacked following five defeats.
Gerrard heads back to England with his new club in 16th place in the Premier League, but given the investment at Villa Park, simply avoiding relegation won’t be the sole target.
Clearly the team have struggled to adapt since the loss of Jack Grealish in the summer, but it isn’t like they didn’t reinvest most of that money.
Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings all came in for big money, and they also picked up the experience of Ashley Young on a free transfer.
In his press conferences, Gerrard has said that this is a fresh start for the players, and that he won’t be rooting through the matches of his predecessor. He could also bring back a 4-3-3 formation – one that was successful at Villa last season, and the one he favoured at Ibrox.
Fitting both Ings and Ollie Watkins into a front three won’t be an easy problem to solve though, with the former available again after an injury.
Brighton beginning to plateau
The season has been much more straightforward for the Seagulls, as they are up in seventh place, having lost just twice this term.
Their results in recent weeks have dropped off a tad though, as they head to the Midlands having gone seven without a win in all competitions.
Admittedly, only two of those were defeats – one in the league against Man City, and the other being a penalty shoot-out exit to Leicester in the Carabao Cup.
That being said, Graham Potter won’t want his side falling into the habit of last season, where they played very well, but a lack of goals cost them the opportunity to win more games.
Potter is without his first choice goalkeeper for this game, as Robert Sanchez was sent off at the death at St James’ Park, prior to the international break. Jason Steele will likely come in, but he hasn’t played a first team game since he was at Sunderland in 2017/18, and he has never played in the top flight.
Gerrard’s men are the 2.546/4 favourites to take the three points on Saturday, with the visitors at 3.1511/5 and the draw the slight outsider at 3.412/5.
Improving Villa’s defensive record has to be the first problem for Gerrard to solve, as with 20 goals conceded, only Newcastle and Norwich have conceded more.
Despite Brighton’s success, they have only scored 12 in 12 this season, which actually puts them in the bottom half when it comes to goals scored.
When a new manager comes in, the atmosphere for their first home game is always pretty electric, but I don’t see that being too much of a factor here, as the Villa fans hadn’t really turned on Smith, and they have given the side good support all year.
A draw really isn’t the worst result in the world for either club. Brighton are away from home against a team with a big name manager making his debut, and they are without their first choice keeper.
Villa, meanwhile, are kind of in transition, and avoiding defeat and keeping a clean sheet would be a good outcome for them.
Under 2.5 Goals is favoured in the main goal market, and it can be backed at 1.834/5. Overs is trading at around the 2.166/5 mark.
As I have already alluded to, I am keen on this being a low-scoring affair.
I think we have to ignore what Villa have done so far this season, and I expect them to be much tighter under Gerrard.
Brighton’s matches are generally low-scoring anyway, as with just 12 goals for and 12 against, their matches are averaging just 2.18 goals each time. Seven of their 11 have seen Unders backers collect.
Following on from my Under 2.5 Goals selection, I am going to start my Bet Builder with Under 0.5 Goals in the First Half.
Despite their struggles, Villa are still ranking seventh in Corners taken this year, with Brighton in 11th. Therefore my second pick in the Bet Builder is the hosts to have the most corners.
A favourite of mine when it comes to Villa games is John McGinn to have a shot on target. He has only had three this season, but he had 11 last year, and if Villa do opt for a more possession based game under Gerrard, he could start getting a few more opportunities.
The above trio of selections comes in at odds of 15.16, and remember, if you bet a combined total of £20 on multiples, you will receive a £10 free bet.
Key Opta Stat
Brighton are winless in six Premier League games, though five of these have ended level (L1). Away from home, the Seagulls are one of three teams still unbeaten in the Premier League this term (W2 D3), along with Chelsea and West Ham United.