Steven Gerrard has praised Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne as “manifest signers” who have “toughness and elegance” to help turn Aston Villa into a major powerhouse in the Premier League quickly once again.
“They are definitely a sign of optimism and ambition,” Gerrard said of the arrivals this week. “We want to act now, we don’t want to wait.” The manager said the brilliant newcomers have the quality and knowledge to improve their teammates in the same way players like Dietmar Hamann helped Gerrard develop during his days at Liverpool.
“When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to play with Dietmar Hamann and Gary McAllister, two players of real pedigree who have been there and have done so before and helped take my game up to date,” he said. “Just being around them and watching them every day. We have young defenders, midfielders and attacking players who really look forward to Lucas and Phil, really appreciate what they have done in their careers and strive to be similar to them. In the past couple of days, I have seen the excitement in the dressing room where we have signed players who are now ready, In real proportions and there are still packages left in our opinion.”
Arrived on loan from Barcelona, Coutinho has gone through a rocky period since joining from Liverpool in 2018. Gerrard scoffed at the idea that the 29-year-old Brazilian, with whom he played at Anfield, may have gone past his best.
“We signed a great footballer,” Gerrard said. “It doesn’t make sense for me to listen to the Barcelona keyboard warriors. I know the player and I know the boy and I’m sure we can move him. He’s a fantastic talent. He needs to smile and enjoy his football, feel confident, supportive and love, and I have no doubt we’ll see Philippe.” The real Coutinho.
Gerrard said helping Coutinho find fun again is the key to getting him to express his talent. “I think Philip would say it himself and that is probably why we had the opportunity to bring him here. You can clearly see that he is a player who needs to feel loved and supported, like the majority of footballers are. I was the same.”
Gerrard was equally excited about Digne, saying Villa pounced as soon as they learned the left-back had become unhappy at Everton. “He is a great player with high pedigree and knows how to win – he brings that experience. At the same time, he fits into the system and the way we want to play, which is vital. He created his opportunity, his quality of presentation, his sporting style and he is also able to be a very intelligent defensive player.” .
Gerrard has suggested Villa could make more additions this month, with the central defender identified as one area he would like to strengthen following the departure of Axel Tuanzebe.
Coutinho and Deeney could make their first game on Saturday when Villa host Manchester United, who knocked them out of the FA Cup on Monday, when Villa was sad about not scoring a goal.
“I’m sure Villa Park will bounce back,” Gerrard said. “I am sure there will be more to do with what happened on Monday night and also the arrival of two great players. We can’t wait for that.”