Unai Emery Hits Potential Tactical Bump in His Villa Revolution

Emery’s Playing it Out the Back Dilemma

If any game provided a harsh example of the potential teething troubles of going all-in on a playing-it-out-the-back approach, it was Aston Villa’s 4-2 home defeat against Leicester City. It was very apparent that Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers had done his homework on Villa, with traps set accordingly to compromise Villa’s intentions.

Forget a full press of chasing down every player with the ball, including the goalkeeper. Leicester were more than happy to let Martinez have the ball and on occasions Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa too. Their plan was to press and swarm the deep sitting pivots of Boubacar Kamara and Luiz, and ultimately it’s why Kamara had his pocket picked a couple of times in the lead up to Leicester goals.

While Emery is intent on his style of possession and build-up, which has already proven effective at times, his players will have to learn to be smarter within the style and know when to vary it. There have been too many poor mistakes already from bad choices, but even Barcelona’s defenders were guilty of mistakes in their first season learning the ethos under Pep Guardiola, when he first brought it to the Nou Camp.

The Player’s Responsibility

The concern though is this way of playing didn’t just begin when Emery arrived in B6. Villa have been trying to play it out of the back since Dean Smith in the Premier League and continued to try under Steven Gerrard. In fact, Gerrard no doubt bought in both Kamara, Lucas Digne and Diego Carlos to help improve with such an approach.

Should the players already be more comfortable playing this way? Despite his mistake away against Brighton, you’d consider Martinez to be up to the task. Kamara and Luiz are both technically gifted deep-lying midfielders. While, the likes of Ashley Young, Alex Moreno and Lucas Digne, should all be comfortable with the style.

Under Emery, Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings are perhaps more the works in progress, in terms of improving their distribution of the ball. Defensively, they’ve certainly rediscovered their best form under Emery, but both perhaps need to be sharper in terms of the speed they move the ball from the back. Konsa is a composed presence on the ball and Mings does have a decent longer ball game, for variation, so there’s hope.

Carlos returning from injury will certainly help sharpen their minds in terms of their distribution and it’ll certainly be intriguing to see if Emery fancies the Brazilian above any of his two current centre-backs. Carlos could be a key element in terms of cementing his style down.

With a relatively low pressure end to this season – a top-half finish will potentially satisfy all parties – Emery has a chance to use the reminder of the season as a sandbox to get things right and pass proper judgment on his personnel.

Hopefully, by the end of the season, the supporters in the Holte won’t have squeaky bums every time Martinez makes a short pass into his backline to get proceedings going.

On the latest My Old Man Said podcast episode, we look into how Leicester exploited Emery’s methods and discuss the potential pitfalls in the future with such an approach to play.


Unai Emery Hits Potential Bump in His Villa Revolution

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Show Notes

A victory against Leicester City would have took Aston Villa into the top half of the Premier League, but familiar frailties reared their head, to suggest the new manager bounce is over and the hard work has only just begun for Unai Emery. With matches against the top two in the league to come, Villa could potentially be staying in the lower half for a while longer.

As well as discussing the Foxes clash, we also catch up on the latest Villa news, Media Muppets, Three Points and Emery’s Clipboard.



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David Michael – @oldmansaid 

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