Steven Gerrard warns Aston Villa's players they are playing for their futures
Steven Gerrard has warned Villa’s players their futures at the club could be at risk as he fights to halt the first serious slide of his managerial reign.
The boss admits players are being analysed every day and claims to have learned much about the character of his squad during a downturn which has seen Villa win just one of their last eight matches in all competitions.
Though Gerrard insists he is yet to reach any final conclusions, he did confirm to have already identified areas of his team which need strengthening, while he also pointed to the transfer market when discussing how to improve the mentality of a team which has lost 13 of 24 Premier League fixtures this season.
Villa, who signed Lucas Digne and Philippe Coutinho last month, are again set to be active in the summer window and the onus is on players to prove they can be part of the long-term project.
Gerrard said: “It’s an ongoing thing, where you keep analysing.
“Arriving here in mid-November, we had a really busy fixture period and an initial bounce which was really positive.
“We’re now on a run of form where we need to get better but in terms of judging and assessing the players’ character and mentality, that will be ongoing.
“I don’t think it makes sense to come to a conclusion with 14 games to go. But if you’re asking me if we have identified areas of the team where we need to get better, that would be on this season, and of course, that would be right.”
He added: “Sometimes it takes a little bit of a rocky road, a few setbacks, a few bumps to see how people react in those situations - as people, as characters and as players.
“Without a doubt those things are getting analysed by not just me but by a lot of people. They have been since day one. That’s the way it’s got to be at this club.”
Villa’s current run ranks as the worst of Gerrard’s fledgling managerial career but the 41-year-old, who suffered defeat only three times in the whole of last season with Rangers, insists he is no stranger to adversity.
He said: “At the beginning of the Rangers job we did have setbacks, we had bumps in the road. That is when you learn about your players and realise and identify the areas of the squad which need changing at the next possible chance.
“Don’t think I’ve been on an upward journey all the way through. That’s not the case.
“In terms of the job, nothing has surprised me in terms of the journey. OK, we punched a little bit above our weight in terms of the initial bounce we had. Winning that amount of games after the run they were on was probably a bit of a surprise.
“But did I expect us to have some tough runs? Yes. Did I expect us to have some setbacks? Of course.”
Villa travel to Brighton on Saturday, the same opponents they beat 2-0 in November's reverse fixture in Gerrard's first match in charge.
The boss believes a top half finish is still within his team's capabilities.
"We are well aware of our current form," he said. "But in terms of the big picture moving forward we believe we can finish in a strong position.
"This club has not finished in the top 10 for more than a decade, so that is still a possibility. We need to finish the league in a positive place and then, when we have another option to strengthen the team and squad we will take that opportunity. We will move the team forward.
"For me in the short-term it is about giving the fans a result and performance to be proud of. I don’t believe that is too far away. The players have an opportunity on Saturday to deliver."