By Jonty Banks

20th Mar, 2023 | 11:10am

Cameron Archer goalscoring form at Middlesbrough highlights glaring Steven Gerrard mistake at Aston Villa

Cameron Archer continued his blistering form for Middlesbrough with a well-taken brace against former employers Preston on Saturday (18 March) – highlighting how badly he was mishandled under previous Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard.

The academy graduate took his record for Michael Carrick’s side to six goals and three assists since making his January loan switch from Villa Park, during the 4-0 win against the Lily Whites in the Championship.

At just 21 years of age, there is justified excitement about the future of the proven goalscorer at Villa Park, and his timely run of form will certainly be catching the attention of Unai Emery in the Villa dugout.

Although the Villa hierarchy will be extremely pleased with their decision to sanction Archer’s January loan move instead of letting him rot away on the bench at Villa Park, it does raise questions about the way he was treated under previous manager Gerrard.

The former Liverpool captain was adamant in his decision to keep the English youth international in the West Midlands over the summer, time and time again reiterating that he was “chomping at the bit” for first-team action.

However, despite calls from every corner of the club’s fanbase to see Archer given a run in a struggling Villa side – who were struggling to score goals at the time – Gerrard refused to give the attacker the time of day, in a decision which is becoming more baffling by the week.

Before his loan move in the winter window, Archer amassed a meagre 43 minutes in the Premier League, 22 minutes in the FA Cup and eight minutes in the EFL Cup, despite both Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings struggling to find any form in front of goal.

After seeing Archer’s goalscoring heroics on Tyneside recently, it is hard to argue against the notion that Villa wasted a valuable six months by keeping the youngster rooted to the first-team bench.

With plans for the summer transfer window likely to be detailed during the upcoming international break, Emery mustn’t make the same mistake as Gerrard.

For Archer to remain at Villa Park into next season, he will need assurances that he won’t be ostracised from the first team in the manner he was under Gerrard.

Although Emery won’t be able to offer first-team minutes every single week, with Watkins bang in form and Jhon Duran looking to be a perfectly able understudy, he must strike a balance to keep the Middlesbrough loanee happy.

Archer has looked a cut above the rest in the Championship, and Emery must now realise he is ready to stake his claim in the Premier League.

In other Aston Villa news, the club could climb into the Europa League places if they sign the Premier League midfielder that Emery is “crazy” about.