The relief around Villa Park was palpable. As Tyrone Mings reacted first to Adam Webster's diverted clearance, stroking into an empty net, Steven Gerrard could barely hide his delight on the touchline. His first test as Villa boss had been passed with room to spare.
More pertinent for Gerrard and Villa was the end to the five-game losing run. The former Rangers boss made it abundantly clear at his unveiling in midweek that, despite the importance of the long-term in the Midlands, their situation near the foot of the table needed rectified quickly. The win now takes them to within three points of Crystal Palace in 9th.
But the evidence in the victory over Brighton - won through late goals from Ollie Watkins and Mings - was that the long-term identity may not take too long to materialise. This was a trademark Gerrard performance, closely resembling his Rangers side at their best against comparable opposition.
When Matt Targett delivered a floated ball to the far post in the 11th minute, Matty Cash haring in at the opposite side to head at goal, the fruits of Gerrard's first week on the training ground were already apparent.
It is a ploy he used to great effect in Glasgow, encouraging James Tavernier to attack the back post from right back when Borna Barisic, his left back, delivered the ball into the penalty area. Gerrard departed Rangers with Tavernier as one of the biggest goal threats at the club.
Evident, too, was the use of Watkins as a wide forward. The former Brentford man enjoyed an impressive debut campaign at Villa Park last term as an out-and-out No.9, but the arrival of Danny Ings in the summer from Southampton created a conundrum for Dean Smith. He couldn't quite get a handle on the presence of the pair, with Watkins cutting a frustrating figure for long periods of games, as if confused by the identity of his new role.
However, as a wide forward under Gerrard - as Rangers' wingers found to their liking - there isn't a great emphasis on tracking opposite wide players back into their own half, with the defensive responsibility passed onto the outside central midfielders. Watkins profited from his new role this afternoon, constantly unnerving Brighton with his movement in behind and offering Aston Villa a useful direct outlet.
He was rewarded with a goal - albeit after he had moved inside to play as a central striker following Ings' departure - but the most evident sign of Gerrard's DNA on this Aston Villa performance was the defensive structure. It is perhaps what attracted Christian Purslow to the former Liverpool captain in the first place, with his ability to get his sides punching above their weight.
At Rangers, the side's ability without the ball was just as impressive as their quality with it. Porto and Galatasaray failed to score at Ibrox in the Europa League, while their Scottish Premiership success last season was built on their defensive foundations, conceding just 13 goals all season.
Villa gave up just 0.51 xG on six attempts against Brighton, with their 4-3-3 mid-block offering Graham Potter's side very little encouragement. John McGinn scurried with boundless energy to win possession constantly, while Mings and Ezri Konsa enjoyed their most comfortable 90 minutes of the season.
The ceiling on Gerrard's ideas will become clearer over time, but Villa fans should take satisfication from the speed in which he has instilled his ideas.
Source : 90min