Will the Real Leon Bailey Please Stand Up
There are two versions of Leon Bailey that Aston Villa supporters have seen so far. There’s the frustrating injury-plagued passenger that scratched together just seven starts in his first season for Villa, despite the hefty £25m transfer fee Villa paid Bayer Leverkusen. And then there’s the bolt of lighting, that came off the bench against Everton at Villa Park to score a beauty and assist directly from a corner in a crackling 20-minute cameo.
Against Manchester United in Perth, when Bailey came on as a second-half substitute, Villa supporter’s got to see the rebirth of later version of the 24-year-old.
With United 2-0 up, when he came on, Bailey totally flipped the game, mimicking his effort against Everton with a classy goal and a corner assist.
“It was more than an impact, reflected Gerrard, after the game. “He changed the game, he showed energy, he showed speed, a hunger to cause problems and he’s come back in pre-season a different player.”
After returning from his initial long-term injury, since Gerrard has been at the club, Bailey has seemed to play very much within himself.
So, the transformation in Perth was startling for the Villa boss.
“Not just from a technical point of view – his demeanour, his body language. I think he’s trusting his body more, so we need to keep him healthy.
“So far, for Leon, he’s sending me a massive signal that he wants to be in the 11, so he needs a strong two weeks.”
Bailey’s tackle back to win the ball against Fred, was perhaps as big as his goal, in terms of winning favour with Gerrard.
Bailey gives Villa genuine pace, threat and unpredictability, and he was the main difference from a first-half performance that possessed too many similarities to the Villa that disappointed last season.
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If Villa are to threaten the European places, Bailey needs to fire up, as does Philippe Coutinho, who has been largely luke warm during his time at the club.
There’s still a long-held belief in the MOMS camp that an upgrade in midfield in the No.8 position would give Coutinho more of a modus operandi to do his thing. Coutinho needs to come to the party though, bearing in mind he’s normally playing ahead of Emi Buendia, who tends to give Villa more bite off the ball in the top half.
Gerrard can’t be sentimental, if Coutinho is failing to make his mark, then Buendia must be given the shirt to stake his claim.
There are players in the attacking ranks that have serious potential upside, having offered little consistency last season (and that includes Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings). If all of them upped their levels to their transfer fees, it could turn Villa into a top-half force.
This is probably the best spread of attacking talent Villa have had in their ranks for quite some time. It’s certainly the most expensive attack ever assembled.
Whether a new midfielder or a formation tweak is the key to getting them to flourish, Gerrard has real options. The ‘no excuse’ culture that he preaches, certainly extends to getting Villa’s attack fully functioning.
Let’s hope Leon Bailey can help his boss get it right.
MOMS Ask: “If Villa are to threaten the European places”
Stevie says: “Christian Purslow was asked the question last night and, of course, we’ve got two ambitious owners. Johan, Christian and myself share the same vision and ambition to finish as high as we can in the table. If that inevitably means we snatch a European place, fantastic, because we’ve got to reach for the stars, of course we have. But the minimum for me is we’ve got to be operating in the top-half of the league.”
Winners don’t go for the “minimum”.
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