Steven Gerrard has been confirmed as the new Aston Villa manager
After guiding Villa to the Premier League and the EFL Cup final, Dean Smith parted ways with his boyhood club last week following five successive league defeats, which left the Villans 16th, just two points clear of the relegation zone.
While some believed the sacking of Smith was harsh on the back of five defeats, in truth, Smith's troubles started shortly after the turn of the year.
A fantastic start to the season had Villa on the brink of the Champions League spots on New Year's Day, but a three-month injury to Jack Grealish saw their form nosedive, picking up just 12 points from as many games in his absence, with their underlying numbers equally troublesome.
Emi Buendia is yet to show the form that led to Villa spending £30m to bring him from Norwich, injuries have hampered Leon Bailey, and Danny Ings hasn't formed the partnership with Ollie Watkins fans had hoped for.
There have been problems at the other end of the pitch, too. Only Newcastle and Norwich have conceded more goals this season and Emi Martinez hasn't quite been able to repeat last season's performances.
Another player likely on Gerrard's radar is Morgan Sanson. The Frenchman was establishing himself in Villa's starting XI last season before a knee injury curtailed his campaign – and a hamstring injury in September hasn't helped matters.
Gerrard's second game sees Villa travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace as he looks to stop the rot and propel them to a first Premier League top-half finish first the first time since the 2010-11 season.
After their trip to Palace, Villa face a trickier run, as they host Manchester City and Leicester before Gerrard makes an eagerly anticipated return to Anfield on 11th December, with the return fixture scheduled for 16th April.
Gerrard started his managerial career at Rangers in 2018, tasked with overthrowing Celtic and securing a first Scottish title since 2011.
A steady, if unspectacular, debut season saw the Gers beat Celtic for the first time in six years but ultimately finish nine points behind their rivals in the title race.
A second season was cut short, but at the third time of asking, Gerrard brought the title back to Ibrox, winning the league with a club-record 102 points as well as going the entire campaign unbeaten.
The former Liverpool man started his managerial career with Rangers in 2018, and has been tipped to one day take over at Anfield, if not as Jurgen Klopp's direct successor, and will be eager to prove himself on a bigger stage.
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