• Analysis

Why are Aston Villa doing so well under Unai Emery?

Aston Villa
© Ace Football

Have Villa secretly developed into one of the Premier League’s title-contenders under the Spanish boss?

For the past decade, Aston Villa has struggled to reclaim its historic glory in English football. Relegated in 2016, financial hardships and on-field failures plagued the club. However, under the astute management of Unai Emery, Aston Villa is experiencing a remarkable turnaround, once again on the verge of joining the footballing elite.

Let’s delve into the factors behind this resurgence and examine how Villa transformed their fortunes.

Structural Changes

The 2020-21 season saw Villa finish an impressive 11th, but a slow start in the following campaign led to managerial changes. Steven Gerrard took over, but the club continued its pursuit of progress. Under Emery, Villa secured a seventh-place finish in 2022-23. Structural changes, including the appointment of Spanish transfer market expert Mchi, signalled Villa’s commitment to strategic decision-making.

Emery’s Arrival Accelerates the Ascent

Emery took the managerial reins in October 2022, marking the beginning of Villa’s rapid climb up the Premier League table. However, the roots of their success extend further back. In 2019, Villa secured promotion under the guidance of manager Dean Smith, backed by new owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens. The billionaire duo’s investment has been instrumental in Villa’s revival.

Player Development

Villa’s recent success can be attributed to savvy transfer business. Collaborative decision-making empowers managers to identify targets that align with data science criteria. Notable sales, like Jack Grealish, Carney Chukwuemeka, and Danny Ings, showcased the club’s ability to extract maximum value. On the other hand, investing in the likes of Tyrone Mings, Douglas Luiz, and Matt Targett has solidified the core of Villa’s reshaped squad. This trend has been continued with more high-profile signings, including Ollie Watkins, Matty Cash, and Emiliano Martinez.

Emery’s Tactical Acumen and Versatility

Emery’s meticulousness extends to the training pitch and beyond. Post-match debrief sessions and extensive analysis are crucial to the Spaniard’s coaching style. Tactically, Villa under Emery has showcased versatility. From patient build-ups against low-block defences to rapid counter-attacks, the team adapts based on the situation. Watkins and others have praised Emery’s approach, emphasizing its effectiveness.

The departure of CEO Christian Purslow in June 2023 marked a turning point, signalling a high level of confidence in Unai Emery’s leadership. With Emery now in full control of football matters, the club’s aspirations have grown beyond conventional expectations.