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The Stats Behind Villa’s Turnaround Under Emery

The Stats Behind Villa’s Turnaround Under Emery

Since the start of the Premier League, the Martin O’Neill era is one of the most fondly looked upon times in Aston Villa folklore, with three consecutive sixth-placed finishes in 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10 while also making an appearance in the 2010 League Cup final.

The Villans found themselves in a similar position to what they do now, in terms of how they crack the top six places, compared to the top four as it was back in the late noughties; with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City making significant improvements since then to add to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United’s dominance of the European qualification places.

This season is more open than ever though, especially with Spurs’ form taking an alarming drop-off, seeing Newcastle in fourth place, while Liverpool and Chelsea have failed to find any form of consistency, seeing the latter two sit eighth and 11th, with the Villains almost certainly finishing above the latter.

With Villa sitting just three points behind Tottenham in sixth, there is perhaps the chance that they could overtake Spurs in the table before the end of the season, however, they do face tough tests with Brentford (a), Fulham (h), Manchester United (a), Wolves (a), Tottenham (h), Liverpool (a) and Brighton (h) all to come.

Unai Emery Villa Record

The Unai Emery Effect

Since their promotion via the Championship play-offs at the expense of Derby County in 2018/19, Villa have spent a lot of money and failed to find consistency in the Premier League, culminating in the sackings of Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard.

Their first three league campaigns back in the top-flight following promotion saw them finish 17th, 11th and 14th, with the first finish arguably having an asterisk next to it due to the fortunate goalline technology malfunction in a 0-0 draw against Sheffield United after Project Restart, with this point proving crucial in the end as they finished one point above 18th and 19th placed AFC Bournemouth and Watford.

However, it was at the start of this season when the Villains struggled most of all, despite signing some interesting players in the course of the last 18 months, with Gerrard making the additions of Lucas Digne, Philippe Coutinho, Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara and more.

Villa were expected to be in and around where they are now, however, this didn’t materialise, with a 2-0 opening day loss at Bournemouth setting the tone for what was to come, with Gerrard being sacked on 20th October after a 3-0 defeat away at Fulham, seeing his side win two of their opening 12 league matches and sit three points above the drop zone.

There were many names mentioned and linked to the Villa job and it was Unai Emery who stepped forward to be Villa’s saviour despite already sitting in a comfortable position as Villarreal manager, where he memorably won the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League (his fourth title in this competition) and reached the Champions League semi-finals with in the following campaign, knocking out the likes of Bayern Munich.

Emery had the desired effect straight away, as the Villans managed to beat Manchester United 3-1 at Villa Park in the Spaniard’s opening game and instantly looked a lot more street-wise, as Leon Bailey, Lucas Digne and Jacob Ramsey all got on the scoresheet, with goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez interestingly conducting the setup for Digne’s goal from a free kick.

Since then, Villa have never looked back, with their 3-0 win over Newcastle at the weekend keeping them in sixth place, and impressively, third in the Premier League’s form table since Emery took over, having earned 38 points in 19 matches, scoring 35 goals, three fewer than Manchester City, prompting fans to question where they would have been if the Spaniard had been at the club since the start of the season.

At present, Villa averages two points per game under Emery, if this record was implemented across the 31 league matches they have played so far, they would be in third place on 62 points, three ahead of Manchester United and six clear of Newcastle having played one game more.

According to Premier League predictor site, FiveThirtyEight, Villa will finish the campaign in eighth place with 60 points (eight points better off than predicted at the start of the season), however, with Spurs’ recent 3-2 loss at home to Bournemouth and their upcoming fixture list which contains Newcastle (a), Manchester United (h) and Liverpool (a), there is no reason as to why Emery’s men can’t grab some form of European qualification.

Tottenham are predicted to finish on 62 points in seventh. Notably, on FiveThirtyEight, Brighton are predicted to finish in fifth place with 64 points, while Liverpool are set to finish sixth on 62 points.

The Form of Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins Goal Contributions

A talking point for Villa fans has been the form of England international, Ollie Watkins, who has been sensational since the turn of the year, as the former Brentford striker has 14 Premier League goal involvements in 2023 which is more than any other player has managed.

The 27-year-old scored a brace against Newcastle at the weekend, taking his overall league goal tally up to 14 for the season in 30 appearances while creating six assists. This sees him as the fifth top scorer in the Premier League, just one goal behind Marcus Rashford and three behind Ivan Toney. Watkins’ brace against the Magpies means he has already matched his best-ever Premier League season goal tally of 14 in 37 appearances during the 2020/21 campaign.

In general, Villa's next top scorer across all competitions is Danny Ings with seven goals, however, he now plies his trade at West Ham, meaning that Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey are the Villans' active second top scorers with five goals each.

Watkins has scored 11 goals in his last 12 matches which will firmly see him in contention for the England squad, as he looks to add to the seven caps and two goals that he has managed for the Three Lions - notably, Gareth Southgate was in attendance at Villa Park on Saturday as the former Exeter City man ran ragged what is statistically the Premier League’s best defence, as the Magpies have conceded just 24 goals in 30 matches.

Villa’s Objectives for the Future

The likes of Newcastle and Brighton have shown that if you invest money in astute ways, then there is no reason as to why a club can’t push up the table. It is arguable that Villa have actually done this in the last couple of seasons, however, mismanagement of the squad has severely let the club down.

With Emery at the helm, Villa are a tough side to beat and will no doubt make a series of additions to their squad in the summer, with the Spaniard already showing his capability in the transfer market by adding Alex Moreno from Real Betis for around £10m, while highly-rated Colombian striker Jhon Duran has joined the club on a long-term deal from Chicago Fire having bagged eight goals in 27 MLS matches.

It will certainly be interesting to see what kind of players Emery sets his sights on, with Villa’s attack already performing to a high standard. One position it would not be a surprise to see the Villans invest in is right-back, with Ashley Young being a regular and set to turn 38 years old in the summer - they have been linked with a move for Dutch right-back Denzel Dumfries of Inter Milan.

dumfries netherlands holland

There could also be some interest in goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, following his heroics at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that saw his country, Argentina, emerge victorious in the final against France.

James Ward-Prowse is a player that Villa have shown some interest in over recent seasons, and with his side Southampton looking like a team on the verge of relegation, perhaps he could finally make the switch and add a deadly set-piece threat, as Emery used this kind of precision to his advantage at Villarreal with Dani Parejo.

Noticeably, since returning to the Premier League, Villa have spent a total of £434m on transfers across what is set to be their fourth season since being promoted. With this level of investment, there is no reason why they can’t build a squad that is capable of maintaining a challenge for the European places which is ultimately the first step to building a platform that can regularly compete against the top sides in both England and Europe.

On top of this, Villa’s owners have shown further ambition with Villa Park, as they are set to expand the stadium’s capacity to over 50,000 with a new North Stand, while also making modifications to the Trinity Stand, with a 6,500 square metre multi-purpose commercial space to be added next to the stadium. This has been approved and ultimately, has seen their stadium make the list for the UK and Ireland’s Euro 2028 bid.