I truly believe fans have every right to express frustration when their team falls below expected levels, but I figured the reaction ended Aston Villa’s home defeat to West Ham on Sunday was a bit exaggerated.
The Premier League season is four games old. If after 10 or 15 games Villa still show as little confidence as they showed against West Ham, I would be concerned.
Make no mistake, these are test times for Steven Gerrard and my old club Villa. But I think he will turn it around and the boos that rang out after the third loss in four games at Villa Park will be a distant memory.
Check out Mikel Arteta at Arsenal last season. He lost his first three league games and the fans called him out. Now the mood at Emirates Stadium has changed completely after this season started with four straight wins under Arteta.
Whether you are a player or a manager, you will face difficult challenges at different points in your career.
It didn’t help Gerrard that Brighton and Graham Potter, who has a so-called smaller squad, got off to a flying start. But let’s not forget that some fans booed Potter at certain stages of last season because their expectations were rising.
Villa fans are so passionate. Having played for the club I know what they expect and it was always difficult for anyone who took the following job Dean Smith’s firing.
People will say, “You’re going to support Gerrard and Villa because it’s your former team.” That has nothing to do with it. I think he’s up to the task but things aren’t going so well and as Gerrard said after his side’s last defeat he needs quick wins.
“The balance is not right”
This is a big season for Gerrard. We all know what a fantastic job he has done at Rangers but since arriving last November he has now had two transfer windows to make his mark.
The owners have certainly supported him, but when you sign players of the quality of Philippe Coutinho and bring in others with big price tags, expectations rise.
Does Gerrard know his best XI? I think that’s one of the problems.
Ollie Watkins didn’t have a great preseason, so he didn’t start in the first game. Then Gerrard tried to match Danny Ings and Watkins.
At this point it doesn’t work. At times there was nothing in width in the front parts of the pitch against West Ham. I found that strange.
Gerrard needs to find the right balance in the team. The players are dangerous and they play well, but I look at the record and I think “something is wrong in attack”.
Villa needs to show who they are because at the moment they are moving between two different styles. They want Ings and Watkins on the pitch but it’s not working.
You have to play with one or the other and play with some breadth.
“A Missed Chance”
Since Gerrard’s first game in charge last November, Villa have won 11 and lost 15 Premier League games. It is worth noting that they have picked up more points than Crystal Palace, Wolves, West Ham, Leeds, Southampton and Everton, who have also played 31 games in the top flight since Gerrard’s appointment.
But the players are below average at the moment.
Villa’s next two games are Arsenal away and Manchester City at home. That sounds daunting if you’re low on confidence, but in my opinion, these types of games are exactly what they need.
A good performance against one of the big teams could finally start the season.
Villa Park is a difficult place to be when things aren’t going well and against West Ham the home side gave their fans little to get excited about
Everything seemed tedious and too slow. It was frustrating. Villa is missing something and Gerrard needs to find what it is ASAP.
If they don’t get anything from Arsenal or Manchester City then the pressure is on. Villa fans forgive when you work hard and give 100%.
But fans are frustrated having seen their side beaten at home by a West Ham side who had lost their first three league games.
Sunday was an ideal opportunity to score points on the board. In the end it was a missed opportunity.
“Villa needs strengthening before deadline”
There are still a few days left in the transfer window before Thursday’s deadline and Villa will certainly have to look for more deals.
There is no doubt that new signing Diego Carlos’ injury is a setback, while Gerrard could have done without Coutinho against West Ham.
The problems are mounting but knowing Gerrard he will do everything in his power to make things right.
He’s an incredible man and he certainly motivated me when I played with him for England.
He was the first to fight, he set a good example, he yelled at you when you needed it and he encouraged you when you needed encouragement. He’s a fighter.
Villa have a good squad but Gerrard needs to find a way to put the right characters in the right places. I think he can.
Micah Richards spoke to BBC Sport’s Neil Johnston.