Euro 2020 Special

What Aston Villa Can Expect From Unai Emery?


When Unai Emery officially takes charge of Aston Vila, the Spaniard will know that he has a big job on his hands. The side are at the wrong end of the table, and have just been thrashed by Newcastle United, with the ripples from the dismissal of Steven Gerrard still being felt.

He also will be aware that he needs to win over English football fans who saw his previous spell in the Premier League with Arsenal end in acrimony and discontent, with the club’s fans turning on him.

His first job is to steer the Midlands side away from the danger zone, but the club’s owners have much loftier ambitions than that. They want to be playing European football again and are convinced Emery can deliver it for them.


Emery’s CV

A midfielder as a player Emery had a modest playing career, in the lower tiers of Spanish football.

A serious knee injury brought his playing club to an end, and he was offered a coaching role with Lorca who he went on to manage. Subsequent appointments at Almeria, Valencia, and Spartak Moscow followed but it was with Sevilla that he first gained prominence, steering them to three successive Europa League wins.

That was enough to convince PSG to entice him to Paris, but, although he won six trophies with them, he became one of a long line of managers who was fired for failing to win the Champions League.

Arsenal came calling then, but, for a variety of reasons that did not work out, and he returned to Spain with Villareal, where he rehabilitated his reputation. He guided them to Europa League success, beating Manchester United on penalties, and, the following year in the Champions League, took them all the way to the semi-finals, beating the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich in the process.

He also guided them to a fifth place finish in the league last season.


Why did Emery fail at Arsenal?

Arguably he was faced with an impossible task, taking over a club in transition and succeeding Arsène Wenger whose long reign in charge came to an increasingly bitter end, with the fan base divided.

Although Emery initially did well, language barriers meant that he was sometimes seen as a figure of fun, and, on the pitch a late season collapse meant the club missed out on the Champions League in his first campaign.

The so-called Europa League expert was undone when his side were thrashed in the final by Chelsea in Azerbaijan. By the November of the following campaign he was gone, unable to control the dressing room and unwanted by the fans. He was simply the wrong man at the wrong time at the wrong club.


Emery’s personality

Emery is known as a hands-on coach, known for his obsessive attention to detail, and for the ways that he prepares for the opposition. This can be a vice as well as a virtue. One of the criticisms levelled at him during his time with Arsenal is that the side was so obsessed with what their opponents were doing that they failed to concentrate on their own game.

He is able to cope with a multi-cultural dressing room, and is unlikely to have to deal with some of the big egos that he faced in Paris and North London.



Emery has regularly used a 4 -2-3-1 system throughout is career, a style that many close Villa watchers believe suits the players in their squad best, although this was rarely deployed by Steven Gerrard or his predecessor Dean Smith. ‘He has a clear preference for two holding midfielders, whilst wide forwards provide the width rather than marauding full-backs.


Relationship with fans

One reason that Steven Gerrard failed at Villa is that he never was about to connect with the club’s fans who found him cold and aloof, whilst there was always a sense that he only ever viewed the role as a stepping stone to the job that he really wanted which was to succeed Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager.

His team also had no discernible pattern of play.  Emery needs to address both these issues and can buy himself sometime by putting a team out on the pitch that is attractive to watch.

Already the Basque will have one date pencilled in his diary – 15th February 2023 is when the Gunners are due to visit Villa in the Premier League.

He would dearly love to have by then a settled side comfortably in mid-table playing attractive football.




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