Unbeaten since February, Aston Villa are the hottest team in the Prem outside of City and Newcastle. With a season that once seemed doomed, Unai Emery has worked miracles with this side. The team now finds themselves well in a race for Europe.
The appointment of Emery rescued the Villains from a near-certain relegation fight. England’s hottest team has found a way to score in bunches without a true star.
Since the Premier League restart in late 2020, Villa has managed to score in every game. While this side does concede a fair amount of goals, their explosive offense keeps them from sinking. Emery’s system has done wonders for certain players, which has helped the team soar.
Steven Gerrard’s tenure with Villa was done by early November, with the club winning only two games in his last 11. Emery was brought in after a successful spell with Villareal but still had many doubters in England after his time with Arsenal. He has not only lifted the club from the depths of the Prem, but Emery has pushed them to Europe.
Talent never really leaves a manager, and while yes Emery struggled his first time in the Prem, he has refined his system in Birmingham. With Tottenham collapsing, Emery has a chance to push the Villains even higher.
Currently 9th in the Prem for goals scored, Villa’s transformation into an offensive juggernaut has been fun to watch. With Emery’s tinkering with the attack, he has unlocked the potential of these players.
Playing a simple 4-4-2 in 2023 is a pretty foreign concept, with most teams favoring a 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3. However, this formation works best for Villa’s attackers by using the wings to widen the field. Even the choice to play Leon Bailey up top with Ollie Watkins is meant to get creative wingers involved everywhere.
The 4-4-2 also allows them to play with a more defensive-minded midfield pairing that can cover for the forwards. Douglas Luiz has been pivotal in being both a defensive anchor and the first player to move the ball forward. No matter who plays alongside him, choosing to play the midfielders deeper helps the attack stretch their opponents.
Emery has found a way to milk this team for their worth. A combination of excellent tactics and the development of certain players has done this.
If there is one poster boy for the Emery Revolution, it is Watkins. The Englishman was wasted by Gerrard and looked destined for the Championship. Under Emery, he has become England’s most informed striker and will surely be a lock for the national team for the year.
Watkins has truly been unlocked by being given the green light to roam across the front line. He’s not a traditional poacher, so he doesn’t have to be played like that. Playing in a system that gives him space to operate in and latch onto chances has let him explode.
A key part in the Villa revolution has been getting the players to buy into playing a more attacking style of football. Emery has found that in these players, and they’re being rewarded in so many ways.
Gerrard’s Villa was a typical mid-table side that never left its shell. Emery’s Villa plays attacking football that draws viewers.
To be fair to Gerrard, he took the Villa job a little too early, despite his somewhat promising Rangers tenure. His side played like a Bournemouth, basic with a bit of flair in the attack and hoped to catch opponents lacking. It initially worked, but his lack of tactical flexibility and knowledge only limited Villa.
It’s why by November, the Villa brass decided that enough was enough and canned him. Villa was a side full of creative players, and Gerrard just couldn’t get the most out of them. The team didn’t need to play like Real Madrid, but they shouldn’t have to play like a Dyche side.
When Emery arrived, it signaled to fans that the brass was serious about improving their style of play with the players at hand. Emery’s resume speaks for itself, but there were still doubts of his ability to manage in the Prem. This was due to his impressive run as Arsenal manager, which saw his image torn to shreds as the team underwhelmed.
Emery did struggle in the Prem, but his subsequent success with Villareal should have been a sign that a smart manager was still there. Now Villa gets to reap the rewards, as Emery has found the perfect side to implement his tactics into. The Spaniard’s tactics have given life to a side that looked dead before his arrival.
Villa were supposed to be a solid mid-table team that could finish above tenth. With Gerrard, they could have finished lower, but with Emery, they can dream of Europe.
One of the recent Prem mainstays, Aston Villa, have been a solid, if not spectacular, side. A single managerial choice threatened to sink them, but another has made fans dream. The Villains and their fans are so close to European nights returning to Villa Park, and it’s thanks to this revolution.
Featured Image: ESPN