Five Reasons to be Cheerful as Villans
By Armen Mirzoian
After back-to-back league wins against teams in the upper echelons of the Premier League, it should be an easy ask to find five reasons to be cheerful for Aston Villa supporters. Unai Emery’s Villans have potentially turned the corner and here is what Villa can be most excited about:
1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
The tears and anger of De Zerbi and Brighton fans at Villa’s ‘dark arts’ in the last twenty minutes of Sunday’s game was a breath of fresh air for many Villa fans. Too often Villa have fallen victims to time-wasting and tactical fouls, and while taking the moral high ground is all well and good, winning games is the priority. It doesn’t make for a good spectacle but until the powers-that-be find a solution, Villa have to do what is necessary to win matches. How pleasing it is to be the villains rather than victims for a change.
2. Unai ‘Cursebreaker’ Emery
Two Premier League games into the Emery reign and the Spaniard has wasted no time in exercising some of Villa’s demons. Villa’s home win against an in-form Manchester United ended a 27 year streak without a league home win against the Red Devils and in his second league game Emery ended two more barren runs. The win at the Amex saw Villa win their first away game of the season, as well as our first win away after falling behind since the Spurs win in May 2021. A superb start and hopefully a sign that Villa are becoming less fragile.
3. Touching Distance
After the Fulham game, the Premier League table made for bad reading. Four league games later and Villa find themselves one point away from 9th and three points from 7th place. While no one should be getting ahead of themselves, it is warranted to show some relief, that for now, the club can look upwards at the top half with realistic optimism.
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In the last ten minutes against Brighton, there was a moment when The Seagulls lumped a ball across the pitch and Villa had two lines of defence in a perfect line. In what resembled a fußball table, all ten outfield players were defending in a line of six and then a higher line of four. What fans were seeing was in-game management and clear evidence of training ground preparation.
This highlights the most pleasing aspect of the Emery era so far; the strategy. In two weeks, fans have seen an example of different formations to suit different opponents and most-importantly to suit the players Emery has had at his disposal. Sickness to the paciest attacking players in Watkins and Bailey, meant a change to the system to suit the skill-set of Ings, and it worked perfectly with the striker netting twice in the match. In both games, Villa led and then adopted two banks of defence to see out the win; a pragmatism rarely seen under Smith and a lead rarely held under Gerrard. The evidence so far is that Villa finally have a manager, that has flexibility in his system and tactical nous missing for too long.
5. January Sales
With the World Cup eating away most of the remaining league games of 2022, Villa find themselves close to the January transfer window. This allows the manager to assess his players, most of which aren’t travelling to Qatar, and decide on areas that need strengthening in January. Three wins in four games has propelled the club closer to where Villa need to be and that should help continue to sell the European vision to a better calibre of player.