Five Reasons to be Cheerful for 2023
By Armen Mirzoian
A Happy New Year to Villa fans across the globe. With the World Cup over and the Premier League up and running again, it’s time to fully focus on the reality of Aston Villa again. Indeed for the first time in a long while, there is genuine cause for optimism with Unai Emery at the helm. While the idea of the Five Reasons to be Cheerful column was originally to provide silver linings for grimmer times (whether they be factual or comedic), lets begin 2023 with a return of the old favourite MOMS column…
Solid Emery Start
Despite the frustrating draw against a desperate Wolves team harnessing new manager bounce power, Villa have set a marker for the remainder of the season. With fixtures against Manchester United (especially given Villa’s cursed home record against them), Brighton, Liverpool, Tottenham and Wolves, the expectation would perhaps have been for six points at a maximum, if Villa fans were being optimistic. Emery has managed to get 10 points from 15 and this bodes very well for the foreseeable future.
We are far from the finished product but the signs are very positive and it is hard to remember a more legitimately optimistic time in the club’s recent history.
The Forbidden Fourth Round
There is the possibility that the youngest of fans will never have seen Aston Villa play a fourth round FA cup tie. Villa have lost their last seven FA Cup matches. It’s almost as if they gave up on the tournament after their 4-0 humbling in the final against Arsenal in 2015 (they’ve won just once in the FA cup since).
Amazingly, Villa avoided a trip to Old Trafford (for now) this season and instead host League Two title challengers Stevenage FC. Given Emery’s knack for progressing in cup tournaments, one would hope that Villa can reach the FA Cup fourth round, for the first time since the 2015/16 relegation season. That year Villa scraped past Wycombe after a replay and were humbled 4-0 by Manchester City in the fourth round.
Now that the sand has settled from the World Cup in Qatar and Emi Martinez has returned to the club, it is worth taking a moment to bask in his glory. His success is unquestionably Aston Villa’s success. In terms of giving current and future players an international platform to achieve their dreams, Villa will now be on the radar for players and agents.
When Martinez made the last minute save in the final, the name ‘Aston Villa’ was mentioned by commentators in all languages across the globe. This is the kind of PR that Purslow and co could only dream of. Most importantly he becomes the first Villa player to win the World Cup, so for that reason alone, it is a feat worth celebrating.
Further Villa Reductions! – Click Below
Not So Silly Season?
The click baiters are out in full and linking Villa to the usual suspects (Mckennie & Sarr), some outlandish targets (Félix), as well as some new possibilities (Deulofeu). It should be an intriguing window for the Villa. Emery has worked wonders since joining and a chance to fine tune the squad both in terms of ins and outs can only be a good thing.
Archer has gone to get some much-needed game time and it seems as though Sanson & Guilbert will follow him out of the door.
The squad is currently the strongest it’s been in years and an overhaul isn’t needed, but they’ll now no doubt be looking at difference makers to hopefully help push the club onto a top half finish.
Of Emery’s five games so far, Villa have played four sides above them and one game against relegation-scrappers Wolves. The next three league games against Leeds, Southampton and Leicester, while not easy, should be seen as games we can get points from.
In the past two seasons this is the exact point that Villa have stumbled under both Smith and Gerrard. In 2021 and 2022, Villa were well positioned in January to attack the top half and faced fixtures that were ‘winnable’, however the form dropped off as did the performances, which sadly never recovered.
Time will tell if Emery can keep this ship sailing on course, but hopefully it’s third time lucky in terms of managers in the Premier League under the current owners.