Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Premier League • England

Gerrard hints at plan to ‘unleash’ Coutinho; explains why Aston Villa couldn’t resist Digne deal

Samuel Bannister
Steven Gerrard before an Aston Villa match

Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne could make their Aston Villa debuts at the weekend, manager Steven Gerrard has confirmed.

Villa made their first two signings of the Gerrard era this week, bringing in Coutinho and Digne. The former arrived on loan from Barcelona, reuniting with his ex-Liverpool captain. The latter, meanwhile, was a permanent signing from Everton.

Both are exciting signings for a Villa side hoping for a better second half of the season. They enjoyed a productive summer transfer window too, but did not get the desired results under Dean Smith.

Therefore, Gerrard came in and is aiming to use his pull to attract big names to the club and inspire them on the pitch.

The additions of Coutinho and Digne are evidence of Villa’s ambition. And they could be in action very soon – potentially in time for Saturday evening’s home clash against Man Utd.

Gerrard confirmed at a press conference: “They’re available. Philippe’s trained for three days now with no issues. We obviously have to build his match sharpness and match fitness up.

“Lucas is slightly different. He’s been involved in group training for quite some time and he’s been available for Everton before he arrived.

“So, yeah, they’re both available selection with the group and they’re both in a good place. But, obviously, decisions will come off the back of information we’ve had of both players over the last couple of days.”

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As Gerrard alluded to, Villa may have to be patient before getting the best out of Coutinho. He was a peripheral figure at Barcelona over the past 18 months.

Nevertheless, Gerrard is looking forward to working with his old teammate when he is sharp again.

The manager explained: “He’s not match fit because he’s been doing a lot of individual training at Barcelona and he also had a Covid situation.

“It’s great to have him. It’s my job to get him settled in and enjoying his football again.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of football left in this boy because for me, he’s a fantastic talent and we’re lucky to have him. At the right time, he’ll be unleashed.”

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In the bigger picture, Gerrard is happy with the work of those above him at Villa for getting in such big names.

And with Digne in particular, he explained why they had to make the most of the transfer opportunity.

He said: “It shows the intent from the top of the club all the way down. It filters down from the two owners, who’ve been a fantastic support to myself. Christian Purslow and Johan Lange have backed that up.

“We’re delighted to have Lucas with his pedigree: a French international who’s got big Premier League experience; he’s been to high-class football clubs and won.

“When the opportunity came to get him in, we jumped at it; we were aggressive and the club backed me on that. We’re delighted to have another wonderfully gifted footballer at our disposal.

“Both footballers will make this group stronger, better and more experienced. To have more in the dressing room that have won, is vitally important because that’s the direction we want to go in.”

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Steven Gerrard previews Man Utd clash

Gerrard was speaking ahead of Villa’s second meeting with Man Utd in the space of a week. On Monday, they lost 1-0 to the Red Devils in the FA Cup third round.

Despite the defeat, he remains confident they can compete with Ralf Rangnick’s side. What’s more, playing them again so soon gives them a good chance to bounce back.

He said: “The only frustration I had the other night is we didn’t progress in the FA Cup, which is important to us.

“The only way to get the feeling and the mood back that I want is to get a big result tomorrow. It’s a unique situation, playing the same team twice in a short space of time, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to bounce back.

“If we can find a similar level of performance, be a little bit more ruthless in the final third and the big calls on the night go in our favour, I’ve got no doubt we can get the result we want.

“We know the quality and the level of player that’s coming to Villa Park and the challenge ahead of us.

“We’ll be respectful of that, but the players should take big belief and confidence that when they’re at their best, we can create problems for Manchester United.”

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