7 December 2023
Unai Emery can prove a point against Arsenal
The list of Aston Villa scalps under Unai Emery is getting impressive. He’s seen his side beat both Manchester clubs as well as two London giants in Tottenham and Chelsea.
He has yet to add Arsenal to that list and he’ll get a chance to prove a point against his old employers at Villa Park this Saturday (live on Showmax Pro Mobile, courtesy of SuperSport).
Emery has overseen 40 Premier League matches as Aston Villa manager and has more wins and more points than his first 40 matches as Arsenal manager.
Why is it that the Spaniard couldn’t meet Arsenal’s expectations? He finished fifth in his first season (one place higher than the Gunners finished the previous season) and got sacked three months into his second campaign.
Did he not deserve more time after succeeding Arsene Wenger? It was always going to be hard to replace the man who was far more than just a manager at the club.
Emery would argue that after only managing in Spain and France beforehand, he needed a chance to adapt to the Premier League. Now it seems that his whole time at Arsenal was the adjustment period and Aston Villa are now reaping the rewards.
Arsenal’s improvement under Mikel Arteta means that supporters certainly aren’t seeing Emery as the one that got away. Plenty of Gunners have been happy for him that he’s redeemed his reputation in the Premier League by his superb results at Aston Villa.
That may be the feeling now, but a Villa win this weekend might change that sentiment.
Emery inherited a mess when Steven Gerrard left Villa Park in October last year. In his first game in charge, they beat Manchester United 3-1 and the club haven’t looked back since.
It’s becoming clear that playing Aston Villa away is now one of the toughest tasks in the Premier League. They’ve won 15 home games in a row, which is the longest current home winning streak in the league by far.
Their midweek win against Manchester City is already being hailed as one of the great Premier League performances of the modern era. For all their attacking riches, City didn’t even manage a shot on goal for 79 minutes of that game. Pep Guardiola has never had one of his teams look so blunt in his whole managerial career.
Emery’s rejuvenation of Aston Villa has got the whole club dreaming. They have a distinguished history with seven top flight titles as well as a European Cup win. They were runners-up in the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93 but haven’t hit those heights since.
How high is their ceiling? They’re now up to third on the table nearly halfway through the season. Can they stay in the top four for a UEFA Champions League place? Are they genuinely in the title race?
If they beat the league leaders this weekend, it’ll be hard to see them as anything but title contenders.
Emery will relish the opportunity of getting a win against his old club, but his work at Aston Villa seems to be about far more than just proving a point.
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