Villa Defy Expectations To Secure First CL Spot

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Having replaced Steven Gerrard in the Aston Villa dug out with the team firm favourites to return to the Championship once again, way back in late October 2022, serial winner Unai Emery simply went about his work diligently and quietly, and although the club largely stayed off the media radar, their progress was utterly outstanding.

Not only did they quickly move away from the drop zone, Emery’s first campaign ended with the club in seventh place in the table, with a qualification through to the Europa Conference League, and nobody has predicted or seen that coming given where they were.

The 2023/24 campaign started disastrously. with Emery losing key first time stars to long term injuries and they were absolutely hammered 5-1 by Newcastle United on the opening day and again most discounted them.

They improved further, and by the end of the year had picked up even more points and had spent large portions of the season well in the mix for the Champions League places, and for a short period, some had them as very unlikely potential title challengers – but that was always going to be a step too far for the Villans.

As it is, with great progress being made in Europe, although not being able to take that final step, fourth is theirs for the year and the bright lights of the Champions League will now follow next season.

What will astound most, is to looks like the traditional ‘big six’ came to an end this season, as in pure head to heads across 2023/24, Villa took 17 points, with Arsenal just behind them on 16, Liverpool in third with 14, then Manchester City on 12. Chelsea snuck into fifth with 11, and Tottenham top sixth with 8.

Having last played in the European Cup 41 years ago, having lifted it in 1981/82, they have never featured in the CL since its rebrand in 1991/92, so it is obviously a massive achievement for the Villans and with increased fixture challenges from significantly improved European opponents to look forward to, many would consider their aim to simply be consolidation in 2024/25.

But given the improvements Emery has already secured from what is mostly, a pretty unchanged group in reality, it is unlikely that the 52 year old Spaniard will be content with consolidation, he will surely undoubtedly want further improvement – however small that improvement might prove to be given the fresh challenges on their horizon.

Who would bet against him, after all, one other small record of note that he holds since arriving at Villa Park that many do not talk about is that only Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal have collected more points since the day he took charge.

It is a historic turnaround for the club, and it has ended with a historic season to their name.

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