Former Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin has backed Rafa Benitez as a potential option to replace Steven Gerrard as manager amid growing pressure on his job. Gerrard is firmly the favourite next Premier League boss to get the sack, and Benitez is one of two candidates Dublin would love to take the reins if he does depart.
Villa are slumped just above the relegation zone after picking up nine points from their opening 10 league games this season and winning just one of their last eight outings. And results against Fulham and Brentford this week could be decisive for Gerrard’s future at Villa Park.
Benitez, who has enjoyed an illustrious career, including lifting the Champions League as Gerrard’s manager at Liverpool in 2005, has been out of work since January after his Everton sacking. Speaking exclusively to Express Sport, Dublin put his name forward alongside ex-Burnley boss Sean Dyche as potential candidates to succeed Gerrard.
He said: “The only managers I can think of off the top of my head out of work [who would be good replacements] are Sean Dyche and Rafa Benitez. Is there any symmetry between those two managers? I’m not quite sure, but they are the two I can think of out of work.”
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Dublin, who scored 56 goals in 188 games for Villa between 1998 and 2004, expressed his confusion over why Gerrard’s headline stars haven’t been producing what they’re capable of this season. And he has stressed the importance of Thursday’s trip to Fulham, admitting the club’s league position after almost a third of the season is ‘worrying’.
“I don’t know what’s gone wrong because I look at the players, and I think, well, Buendia’s decent, Coutinho’s decent, Luiz’s decent, Ramsey’s decent, Bailey’s decent and Watkins and Ings,” Dublin added. “They’re all good footballers, but they just can’t come together to give good consistent performances. I don’t know what’s going wrong. When they go down a goal, they can’t seem to be able to pick their spirits up and go again.
“So it’s a difficult one to call from the outside. I don’t really like managers getting sacked, but inevitably, if you’re having a bit of a stinker, the owners are going to think this isn’t working. The fans are going to make themselves heard as well. Villa fans have always done that. They are not shy in letting you know how they feel, which is right for a football fan as long as it’s done in the right way.
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“Sing your songs, do what you’ve got to do, and let us know what you’re thinking. And they also do it when Villa are playing well as well, so they’ll always be there for you, the Villa fans. Stevie [Gerrard] needs to get some results. Being one point above the relegation zone is a worry. And I would worry for Stevie if he loses his next two, which I’m sure Stevie will expect, and he won’t shy away from those conversations either.
“He’ll want to make sure that Villa turn this corner, and he’ll want to be at the helm to do it. Getting over the line and getting points against Fulham is so important. Not losing is so important. First and foremost, nicking a point will be great. It sounds silly saying that, really, [saying] Villa nicking a point at Fulham is a great result. But that’s where they are at the moment.”
Amazon Prime Video will be broadcasting 10 Premier League fixtures between October 18-20, including Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool vs West Ham.
Dion Dublin will be working as a pundit at the Fulham vs Aston Villa fixture on October 20, with commentary from Guy Mowbray.
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