As the song goes, “We’ve got Super Unai Emery, he knows exactly what we need..”. No team has more points than Aston Villa since the appointment of Unai Emery.
Aston Villa picked up just three wins in their opening thirteen Premier League games this season. Now they are three points off the top six after Emery made it five wins from a possible seven. And Steven Gerrard said it was down to the players?
Some would point towards a so-called no-manager bounce but how long does a new manager bounce last? Not for me. As you know, if you are a regular reader of AVillaFan then you will know I have been all in since the appointment of Emery. I read and watched just about anything I could about the Basque manager and what he brings. So far, he has delivered on all levels.
The one thing that makes it even more impressive, he still isn’t happy. Emery still wants more from his players. He wants them to do better with the ball and better going forward. What a breath of fresh air eh?
Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa
It was never a classic but it was a solid, important away win from Aston Villa. It could have been so much different and I am sure the vultures in the media would have focused on a certain striker who had left Villa Park this week had they not come away with all three points.
The Villa squad is low on numbers due to injuries so the first team pretty much picks itself with the only change coming as Alex Moreno replaced the injured Lucas Digne.
Villa’s lack of options were highlighted on the bench when two goalkeepers were named. There was no sign of either Ludwig Augustinsson and Marvelous Nakamba who are both expected to depart Villa soon.
Villa bossed the game early on but the ball was mainly in defence and the home side seemed happy for them to keep it there.
Ramsey came close early on when he chased his own flick into the box but goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu got enough on the ball for the referee to award a corner and not a penalty.
The home side were offering very little and it was clear to see why they have struggled at home so far this season. They did fire a warning shot at Villa when Lycano’s cross travelled past the far post and Che Adams fired it home but he was in an offside position.
The game was lacking any real clear-cut chances despite efforts from Ramsey and Leon Bailey as Bazuna was equal to anything fired in his direction.
Villa had a shout for a penalty when Mo Salisu handled Ramsey in the box as he tried to turn the Saints defender but the officials were having none of it.
The highlight of the first half was when a drone appeared above the pitch stopping the game for about 10 minutes. On their return, nothing of note really happened before the half-time break.
Villa continued to dominate after the break as Ramsey and Bailey linked up once again but the Jamaican international effort went straight into the arms of the Southampton keeper.
The home side eventually turned up to the party of an hour and forced a top save out of Emi Martinez. James Ward-Prowse’s cross found Adam Armstrong who struck a low drive but our World Cup winner’s reflexes were equal to the effort.
Southampton looked to have made their short spell of dominance pay off when they thought they had broken the deadlock. Kyle Walker-Peters crossed from the right and Ward-Prowses’s shot deflected off Konsa, over Martinez and into the back of the net.
Villa players were unhappy and immediately appealed to the officials and VAR soon back up their claims as the goal was ruled out. Ramsey was fouled by Mohamed Elyounoussi and after the referee consulted the pitchside monitor, he agreed with the VAR officials.
Just to make matters worse for the home side, Villa scored the only goal of the game 13 minutes from time. Douglas Luiz delivered a free-kick and an unmarked Ollie Watkins was able to head beyond Bazunu. On the balance of play, it was probably deserved for the visitors.
Southampton struggled until stoppage time when Moussa Djenepo cut in from the left but once again, Martinez was equal to the effort, palming it wide of the goal.
Emery has made Aston Villa a side that is hard to beat. They are still learning what he expects of them but you can see the difference in shape and structure. They defend and attack together as a team. There are no individuals, they are all fighting for each other.
Despite 16 points from a possible 21, Emery is not resting on his laurels and he strives for further improvements.
“I want to improve. I want to do better. I want to be demanding with the players and continue working to improve.
“We are doing it step-by-step and the players are responding well.”
This is the clear difference between Emery and previous managers. So many times I have listened to a manager praise his side following a win and although Unai does this, he also points out that we are far from the finished article.
Villa now has a two-week break before they welcome Leicester to Villa Park. More time on the training pitch and plenty of time for Emery to focus on the transfer market.
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