Why Steven Gerrard may have been wrong to freeze Tyrone Mings out

Tyrone Mings - Why Steven Gerrard may have been wrong to freeze out the absent Tyrone Mings - REUTERS

Tyrone Mings – Why Steven Gerrard may have been wrong to freeze out the absent Tyrone Mings – REUTERS

In less than three months, Tyrone Mings has lost his place in the England squad, been relieved of the Aston Villa captaincy and has now been dropped from the team’s starting XI.

They were decisions that individually might have been understandable, but collectively they would test the confidence of even the most resilient character. It was strange and questionable to hear Steven Gerrard put the onus so firmly back on the Mings after a limp opening day defeat in which his side barely ebbed in character and leadership (scroll down for match report).

“I think the easy thing to do after defeat is to look at the people who weren’t on the pitch,” said Gerrard, when asked about his decision to leave out Mings and pair up £26m new signing Diego Carlos in central defence. with Ezri Konsa.

Then came the passage which provoked considerable debate among Aston Villa fans after it was posted by BBC West Midlands reporter Steve Hermon. “I am confident and have full faith [that] “When Tyrone is back to his best and looks me in the eye and shows me he’s ready to play, he’ll get opportunities,” Gerrard said.

“He has missed some training time due to injury and there is a niggle in the background. That is the challenge I set him when I made the decision about the captaincy. We said to Tyrone: ‘You’ll get back to your consistent best and you’ll get back into the team.’ We haven’t lost the game because Tyrone Mings didn’t play.”

Indeed, there were other problems on Saturday – not least the meek attacking contributions of Danny Ings and Philippe Coutinho – but Villa would surely have stood up to Bournemouth’s considerable physical presence better with Mings in the team.

Philippe Coutinho - Barcelona flop Philippe Coutinho fires blanks as Aston Villa lack killer instinct - REUTERS

Philippe Coutinho – Barcelona flop Philippe Coutinho fires blanks as Aston Villa lack killer instinct – REUTERS

He certainly made mistakes in the final months of last season, but the wider statistics are also in his favour. In just 12 league games when Mings has not been in the starting line-up since signing in February 2019, Villa have lost eight times and won just twice.

It all points to a broader influence on the field that extends far beyond the narrow performance statistics that may have been examined.

Beyond that and Gerrard’s comments – especially the suggestion to “look me in the eye and show he’s ready” – felt surprisingly pointed. Gerrard has already said in the past that Mings was “a bit raw” about losing the captaincy to John McGinn, and while we can’t judge what the manager sees in training, he has certainly appeared to make recent decisions like a model professional. Mings sent his England team-mates a congratulatory message after losing his place in the squad in May, and he was equally gracious after McGinn was confirmed as captain last month. “I have no problem with the manager’s decision – it will be an honor to play under him [McGinn’s] captain, he wrote.

By all accounts, Mings threw himself into the role of captain last season and took it upon himself to represent the club at many community events. Part of the reason for the change was therefore to give him more time to focus on football.

How the situation now unfolds will be fascinating. Football moves quickly and while Gerrard’s words seem to be getting a reaction, the immediate aftermath of a disappointing defeat isn’t always the ideal moment to get your point across.

Parker: “Teams can’t handle big Kieffer”

The multifaceted art of management was rather easier for Scott Parker on Saturday. He has been vocally frustrated by the lack of summer signings, but there was clarity in his repeated message. “We have to have that nasty line – never let desire, commitment or passion get the better of us,” he said.

In an era when attacking football is supposedly more about reverse wingers, false nines and flow between the lines, 6ft 4ins Kieffer Moore also completed a hugely effective performance with a match-clinching goal from a free header. Moore wants teams to be “almost scared” of Bournemouth and it was interesting to hear Parker later agree that the rarity now of a traditional No.9 can actually only enhance the 29-year-old’s influence.

“I think Kieffer Moore is probably a bit of a setback – I’m sure both centre-backs for Villa will come away knowing they were in a game,” he said. “He makes it uncomfortable, he can threaten behind in terms of his mobility, he can then get to his feet and hold the ball up, and bring others into play as well. He is an all-round nightmare.”

Barça ‘flop’ flop Coutinho fires blank as Villa lack killer instinct

By Jeremy Wilson

It had been a week when Philippe Coutinho was named the biggest Barcelona flop of the 21st century, although another attacking talent optimistically kept the faith.

“I expect him to dominate this game,” declared Paul Merson ahead of Aston Villa’s visit to Bournemouth, a club back in the Premier League but themselves facing uncertainty after a passive summer transfer window that had left a frustrated Scott Parker open declared that they were weaker now than when they were promoted three months ago.

It was a surprise then that his side should not only mark their return to the top flight with Jefferson Lerma’s goal inside two minutes, but also absorb Villa’s possession with such ease. Villa manager Steven Gerrard was blunt in assessing a performance so lacking in creative spark, and in acknowledging he had been left with more questions than answers, surely one of the most relevant must relate to transfer strategy. “We need bigger, better quality,” he said. “Our quality was poor, we never had enough shots on goal, we never crossed the ball enough, we never showed enough invention.”

Gerrard’s mention of bigger as well as better talent felt particularly telling after seeing Bournemouth so benefit from a number of attacking options – notably an old-school No.9 in Kieffer Moore.

Coutinho’s strike partner Danny Ings also rarely looked threatening here, but there was little more punch when Ollie Watkins came on and Bournemouth’s superior creative threat was underlined when Moore sealed the 2-0 win with a trademark towering header. Coutinho was replaced immediately after the goal.

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