Game over for Gerrard at Villa
It was another dismal day for Steven Gerrard. A wretched performance and result against Fulham at Craven Cottage left Aston Villa hovering above the relegation zone on goals scored. Barely 90 minutes after the final whistle, they confirmed their head coach’s departure.
You got the feeling this was always a must-win fixture for Gerrard, who was already under pressure having seen his team lose five of their opening 10 games this season.
Harrison Reed’s fine strike, Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty and a Tyrone Mings own goal gave Fulham a deserved 3-0 victory, but Villa were poor throughout and their night was summed up when Douglas Luiz was sent off for a petulant headbutt in the second half.
There were loud boos from the travelling fans at half-time and full-time, while chants of ‘Steven Gerrard, get out of our club’ sent a clear and damning message to the Villa board.
“You know and I know I’m in a difficult position right now,” the 42-year-old said in his post-match press conference. And so it proved.
Villa’s wait for a first win since September 16 continues. They will now have a new man in the dugout when the next one eventually arrives.
Mitrovic has Fulham dreaming
It’s been a dream return to the Premier League so far for Fulham. Thursday’s convincing 3-0 win over Aston Villa saw them rise to ninth after 11 matches. Marco Silva’s side are just one point behind Liverpool and five adrift of fourth place.
But they would not be where they are without star forward Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbia international scored his eighth league goal of the campaign as Fulham romped to victory. He might be seven shy of Erling Haaland, but he’s now level with Brentford’s Ivan Toney and catching up with Harry Kane.
Since the start of last season, Mitrovic has scored 51 league goals for Fulham, 19 more than any other player in England’s top four tiers. Only Haaland has scored more home goals in the Premier League than Mitrovic this term.
Where Fulham finish after 38 games will heavily depend on keeping the 28-year-old fit and firing.
Faes becoming signing of the summer?
Authority, leadership, experience – all three words were mentioned by Brendan Rodgers when discussing Wout Faes ahead of Leicester’s crucial clash with Leeds. All of the above have been missing, arguably, for the entirety of 2022 when it comes to the way Leicester defend. Not anymore. There is aggression and desire to keep the ball out of their net.
Much of that comes from the influence of Faes, who has now started five games in the Premier League and has helped Leicester to three clean sheets and seven points. Faes’s arrival for £15m from Reims created few ripples at the time but judging by his impact he is bordering on signing of the summer territory when you assess the relatively small fee for a key player in a Premier League side.
Rodgers likes his defenders to play aggressively with their line in order to help push opposition teams back and Faes seems comfortable in this role. But when he has to put his foot in, he puts his foot in. With 15 minutes to go he was surrounded by four Leeds players but somehow managed to bounce off every single one of them, winning the ball back and playing a clever pass to a team-mate. It almost triggered a standing ovation from an audience who have a new hero.
With him providing such a secure base, Leicester only have to score one or two goals in a game to pick up Premier League points. Up the table they go.
Marsch remains in Bielsa’s shadow
As Steven Gerrard found out, once the supporters turn it can prove difficult to flip the situation. Jesse Marsch has a seven-game winless run to contend with now after slipping to a meek 2-0 defeat at Leicester, who started the evening bottom of the Premier League. The Leeds fans that made the trip made their feelings clear from the away end, questioning Marsch’s decision-making in the wake of dropping Liam Cooper and Jack Harrison from the start only to bring them on when two goals behind.
And then the away end rubbed salt into Marsch’s wounds by chanting the name of previous boss Marcelo Bielsa. Clearly the grieving process for their legendary former head honcho hasn’t been completed yet.
It was a nothing performance from Leeds. Without looking too up against it at the King Power they were 2-0 down courtesy of goals Leicester didn’t really have to work that hard for. And when a reaction was expected after the break, the away side allowed Leicester to stroll the second half without many questions to answer despite a defensive structure that has wobbled pretty badly this season. Leeds had 14 shots with just two testing Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward. That wasn’t good enough.
It’s clear the players are lacking belief. Marsch has to hope they still believe in him.
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