Former Arsenal manager and serial Spanish success, Unai Emery, has been an incredible success for Aston Villa after he moved to the club in late October 2022 as Steven Gerrard’s replacement, after what can only be described as a massive gamble that backfired from the then chief executive of the club.
Emery’s first season was a revelation, and the form table during his time in charge basically had them rooted into third place in the form charts for results, and as wider fans in the world of football will know, he led them from 17th in the table, into the Europa Conference League qualification spots and fans are enjoying a European adventure for the first time in well over a decade.
With some clever, and quite cost effective, strengthening, given the sums some sides threw around over the summer, Emery has also remarkably managed to get an extra 20/30% out of each player in the main, and those who looked destined to leave under Gerrard, are largely completely revitalised.
The 2023/24 campaign is going even better in reality, and minus a few hiccups when it comes to results, they are sat in fifth place in the table with seven wins from ten, and they are joint top in Group E of their European campaign.
October has ended well for them as well, a 4-1 victory over West Ham United, was backed up with a 4-1 win over AZ Alkmaar, and then a 3-1 win over Luton Town, where arguably, the margin of victory should have been higher.
Emery is certainly not resting on his laurels though, and it seems that over the last few weeks, the press and media have finally shrugged off their ‘Gerrard was treated so badly’ nonsense approach given their crippling relegation form, and have also realised that judging Emery on his spell at a woeful off pitch Arsenal, is not how to judge the man or his achievements at Villa Park so far.
There is even talk of a potential top four challenge – it seems Emery is aiming higher.
“We are after seven teams; Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle. We were not contenders to be in the top four in the beginning, but of course we need to take our dreams. Dream, always. My dream is to win the Champions League but now we are fifth and we are going to face each match trying to get a good performance.”
Whilst Emery’s professionalism and respect should be noted, there will be some fans who feel that in adding Newcastle, Manchester United and Chelsea, in particular, given they are all five points minimum behind them.
Emery will be hoping the other clubs he names also slip into their rear view as they are actually only four points off Tottenham in top spot. But he is not even two years into life at the club yet, the future holds more challenges, but you have to admire what he has achieved so far.