Steven Gerrard is desperate to bring Aston Villa back to Europe for the first time since 2010 and with her has spoken of his desire “where the games happen fast and well”. The boss wants to fight on three fronts next season in the Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup and is building a squad to do just that with more additions on the horizon.
Gerrard, 42, has already signed deals to bring in Robin Olsen, Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara and Philippe Coutinho, all four aiming to complement what Villa already have in their ranks. One player few Villa fans will know too well, however, is 21-year-old Finn Azaz, who joined the club last July from close neighbors West Bromwich Albion.
It is understood head coach Gerrard is keen to take a closer look at the 6ft1 attacking midfielder after such a stellar campaign on loan at Newport County last season. Azaz made 45 appearances in all competitions – scoring seven and eight assists – as County finished mid-table. Azaz, however, won the Ligue 2 Young Player of the Year award and was named in the Ligue 2 Team of the Season.
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“From a personal perspective, I really enjoyed my football and when that happens you tend to play your best,” he told VillaTV. “It was great to win the awards and I was more proud of the first season team because you’re compared to everyone else in the league and age doesn’t matter. That’s how good you are.
“The most pleasant thing is when you feel you are evolving and I have felt that this season. I have become a better player and a more efficient player.
Gerrard, meanwhile, will admire Azaz’s comments regarding hosting a busy schedule, as the youngster added: “I like three-game weeks because my body has adapted to it, I’ve so was able to do three 90s and maintain the performance.It was just a matter of figuring out what my body needed throughout the season.
“Above all, though, it’s about getting games so a manager can trust you. I say this to all young players who take their first loan. Play the game to get into the team. Get the manager to trust you, then once you have some credit you can try new things. However, you must first enter the team. The two loans gave me that base now for the rest of my career.
Azaz’s confidence is there too. “After the first two practices [at Newport], people realized my ability. I’ve always had that status in the locker room. It was about time to have that confidence to talk and talk about the games and to have that gravitas.
It is understood that Azaz has one year left on his contract (June 2023) after signing a two-year contract last year. A decision on his future – whether he is loaned out, sold or stays with the first team – will be made this summer.