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Unai Emery’s stunning transformation of Aston Villa

Aston Villa looked set for a relegation battle when Steven Gerrard was sacked back in October. The English coach left the club joint 18th in the league and their Premier League status looked to be under threat. Unai Emery was appointed in Gerrard’s place and he has transformed the club massively since he arrived. He has not only steered Villa away from a relegation battle but has made European football a genuine possibility. Many players have improved significantly under the Spaniard which has led to Villa becoming one of the most in-form teams in the league. 

Villa could qualify for Europe

Villa could be set for a European adventure next season following Emery’s heroics to turn the club around. In , they are offered at 8/1 to finish in the top six positions. This would guarantee Villa a UEFA Europa League place. However, finishing seventh would award them a solid consolation prize of Europa Conference League football. In , Brighton and Hove Albion are expected to claim the final European spot at Villa’s expense. But the fact the club have a chance of playing in Europe is demonstrative of the turnaround Emery has led at the club. 

Villa are a reputable club in Europe having in the past, however, they have not qualified for a European stage in the past two decades. In 2009 and 2010, Villa appeared in the Europa League play-off round where they were twice beaten by Austrian side Rapid Wien. If Emery can achieve a top-seven finish this campaign, then Villa will enter a European qualifying round for the first time in over a decade.  

Emery improved many players

Ollie Watkins has improved greatly under Emery’s tutorship. He is enjoying one of the best goalscoring seasons of his career and has been one of the leading factors in Villa’s remarkable turnaround. Watkins managed just a single goal in the first 12 fixtures of the season under Gerrard. He seemed to lack confidence in front of the goal under his former coach, but Emery has helped recapture his prolificness and composure in the final third. Watkins managed 13 goals in his following 23 Premier League outings, comfortably making him Villa’s top scorer.

Villa was struggling under Gerrard, but Emery has managed to provide results with the same personnel who were out of form under the previous management. The improvement of Brazilian Douglas Luiz is perhaps the most surprising of all. He was a solid ball-winning midfielder in the past. However, under Emery, his role has been adapted so that he is an all-action midfielder. He dictates the play and covers every blade of grass in his appearance. Luis has even added regular goals and assists to his game.  

Emery has proved to be exactly what Villa needed following Gerrard’s shortcomings at the club. He is an excellent tactical mind, and most importantly an excellent man manager. He has elevated the Villa players to levels they have never reached before. Relegation worries are in the past, and further improvement is sure to come under the Spanish coach.