Steven Gerrard’s managerial career couldn’t have got off to a better start, but the wheels have come off somewhere down the road.
Expectations were at an all-time high. The 43-year-old assumed the reins of an ambitious project in Birmingham, putting pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year contract in November 2021.
However, Gerrard’s first season at Villa Park was an unmitigated disaster as his team finished in 14th place and were never genuine contenders in the European race.
Despite the board’s support in the transfer window, the ex-midfielder didn’t last long. After only winning twice in the opening 12 matches of the 2022/23 campaign, Villa showed him the door.
Saudis offer salavation
Like many underachieving players and managers, Gerrard recognised an opportunity to get his faltering career back on track in the summer as he found refuge in Saudi Arabia.
Two-time Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ettifaq offered him an escape route from Europe, hoping his arrival could inspire the club to their first domestic success since 1986/87.
Just 13 rounds into the new campaign, the Knight of Ad-Dahna may have already come to regret Gerrard’s appointment as they lag a staggering 13 points behind leaders Al-Hilal.
Not just that, but amongst the sides to have entered the November international break in the upper half of the table, only Al-Feiha (15) have a worse goalscoring record than Al-Ettifaq (19).
It’s not like Gerrard doesn’t have a squad capable of packing a punch.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Demarai Gray and Moussa Dembele are part of his squad’s international contingent, yet they’ve drawn a blank in back-to-back games going into the break.
That sheer firepower hasn’t found the net in five of their last seven outings, including a 1-0 extra-time loss to Al-Nassr in their King Cup last-16 tie.
Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq’s career in jeopardy?
Managers come and go, depending on their results.
And while the Middle East has emerged as a ‘promised land’ for those whose skills are no longer in demand in Europe, the Saudi Pro League clubs seemingly don’t like being taken for granted.
Underperformers are not welcome.
One that notoriously failed in the Premier League has already been taken out of the picture, when Al-Ittihad, Al-Ettifaq’s next opponent, sacked ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
Despite the Saudis’ generosity and lavish spending, no one is untouchable – no matter how significant your name is, football has zero tolerance for failures.
And Gerrard seems destined to fail. What’s worse, he may be the maker of his own demise.
When you’ve been handed a blank cheque to do whatever you want yet decide to go for Jordan Henderson and make him your captain, whose fault is that?
But if the 33-year-old’s tally of zero goals from 13 appearances in a mid-class league doesn’t bother England boss Gareth Southgate, why should Gerrard be concerned?
Unlike ‘Stevie G,’ the Three Lions manager has results to back his decisions, even though choosing Henderson over James Ward-Prowse is not among the wisest decisions.
As for Gerrard, well…
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