Steven Gerrard says he needs his Aston Villa players to become “headline writers” if they are to improve on their disappointing early-season form.
Villa missed the opportunity to move up to ninth in the Premier League with Monday’s 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
While Villa are unbeaten in four, they have managed just seven goals from their nine top-flight matches so far.
“The important thing is how I get this team to be more potent,” Villa boss Gerrard told Sky Sports.
“[For] Effort and application a lot of our play is OK until you get to a certain point. But look around the dressing room and you see [Philippe] Coutinho, [Emiliano] Buendia, [Ollie] Watkins, [Danny] Ings and [Leon] Bailey will be back soon.
“I need these players to step up and provide big moments and go and be headline writers for us.”
Against Forest, Villa were reliant upon 37-year-old Ashley Young’s superb strike to earn them a draw in an encounter where they struggled to create clear-cut opportunities despite having more than 60% possession.
Of their 12 efforts on goal, Watkins was the only other Villa player besides Young to find the target, and they rarely looked like adding to their tally from their 27 touches in the Forest penalty area.
“I don’t think there was too much wrong with the performance up to a certain point,” Gerrard added.
“It was a fantastic strike and it was one of a few moments of quality in the final third. Ashley [Young] is leading by example for us at the moment and we are really pleased with him.
“We are grinding at the moment. We are close to turning draws into wins, but to do that we need big players to step forward for us and give us a little more quality in the last bit of our play. In the last couple of games we are going away frustrated.”
Coutinho woes epitomise Villa struggles
A victory over Chelsea at Villa Park on Sunday (14:00 BST) would undoubtedly raise morale and help change the narrative around the club, with Gerrard’s future coming under increased scrutiny.
Gerrard, who was appointed Villa boss in November 2021, has seen his side win just one of their past 10 away Premier League matches and they are winless in six on the road.
The struggles of former Liverpool and Barcelona playmaker Philippe Coutinho epitomise Villa’s situation.
The Brazilian scored five times last term after joining the club initially on loan in January, but his contributions have tailed off significantly.
In a season where expectations were running high he has failed to register a goal, and has found himself relegated to the substitutes’ bench several times.
“Coutinho has been a nightmare for Gerrard – he has hung his hat on him and he hasn’t performed,” said former England forward Chris Sutton on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“There’s greater expectation and Villa fans thought the club would be further down the line.”
Former Aston Villa assistant manager Roy Keane added on Sky Sports: “If Gerrard gets to January and these players are not producing, does he have to change them?
“I could not believe how bad Villa’s attacking players were. They have quality but it’s the lack of quality to try something. They lacked the bottle to try and hurt Forest – that comes down to the players.
“Gerrard has to be under pressure because they are not winning games, and they have a tough run of games. That is not good enough for a club like Aston Villa.”
Also speaking on Sky Sports, Gerrard’s former Liverpool team-mate Jamie Carragher added: “On paper they have four or five good attacking players. Coutinho is a shadow of his former self, he is a million miles from what he was. He looks like a five-a-side player, the pitch looks too big for him. The game looks too quick, the other players too powerful.
“Villa look like a very organised team but are they waiting for someone to bring that moment of brilliance.”