Villans are buzzing as the club climb into 6th for at least a moment. We may not be throwing around the M-word just yet, but it’s getting hard to keep it in the bottle. This, coming off the back of a clearly tired squad finding their way past Forest 2-0 for a third straight win at Villa Park.

What a far cry from Gerrard’s disastrous and thankfully brief tenure at the helm.

The difference, clearly, is that Emery is actually a proper manager. Not that I scoff at Deano by any means. But Unai is different gravy. And comparisons are fair since the core of this team remains Smith’s, and currently features (depending on the day) only one consistent Gerrard signing.

And we are all pretty certain Villa would be right in the middle of that massive relegation battle had Gerrard remained, if not already circling the drain. If he were a humble man, which he isn’t, Gerrard would be doing some serious self-examination these days.

What’s Emery Doing?
Actually coaching, as we all know. Getting a system/philosophy in, making in-game adjustments as required. Getting players to understand their roles and facilitating execution. Working in training on installing specific plans for each opponent that build off the fundamentals of his philosophy.

And so this same group of players, who looked broken by the time Gerrard was shown the door, are suddenly scoring and finding ways to win. Being patient, making better decisions, and seeing games out.

Villa are managing to stay compact and disciplined. Holding onto the ball and cycling it round (instead of relentlessly launching attacks that stretch and pull the shape). Learning how to play it out. Learning what it takes to manage games. Learning how to win.

Back to enjoying their football.

It doesn’t feel like Villa, to be honest. The fact Emery’s doing it with an inherited cast makes it all the more impressive. Emery’s got his ideas, and he’s apparently able to translate that to the players, getting the most out of them. There’s no doubt he’s demanding, but fair. I saw an exasperated touchline reaction yesterday that said a lot.

What’s Next?
Even as Villa seem resurrected (I know, I know), it’s apparent there’s much more we might be looking forward to. Naturally, if Villa were somehow to secure a European place, those needs will be more expansive. But in either scenario, Unai will have his sights set squarely on not only a European spot next season, but also a squad that can handle it.

Whoever he targets, we can assume they’ll be more technical. Better in possession, playing out. Sharper on the ball overall. We likely have the right man and platform to identify, attract, and utilize such players.

Anyone’s guess (apart from wide right) where the focus will be. Even with three or four players who’ve found a new lease on life and look back to their best, moving to the next level is going to require a squad with a higher ceiling, and certainly more options. Beyond some targeted upgrades, the bench has to be stronger, and it seems inevitable more than one starter will be seeing more limited time as the squad is improved.

That said, when you’ve got a team suddenly gunning for 5th or 6th, you’ll be careful not to underestimate what you’ve got. It gives Emery good problems.

In the Meantime
We get to sit back, enjoy, and anticipate. Yes, we may end up with some dashed dreams in the final placings, but I think we’ll keep giving it a fair go. The response to the three-game losing streak has been excellent. There’s more resilience, and a seeming breakthrough in the mentality of the team. They don’t look scared anymore. Rather, they’re calmer, more cohesive, and show belief in the direction. In the past, we’d have conspired to lose a number of recent games.

If Emery can step in and get this from a squad that looked crushed and disheartened, from a number of players we’d begun to write off, he truly ought to be able to set a new floor. The transformation seems to say this isn’t a fluke.

All in all, happy days. As we all know, football can be a cruel game, so fingers will always remain firmly crossed. You’ll see a lot of hedging in my enthusiasm. But this feels good and sustainable, finally. Europe looks realistic, finally. NSWE’s ambitions seem attainable, finally.

Villans regularly grumbling about passport queues would be such a refreshing complaint.

Over to you.

Comments 129

  1. You’ve scripted my thoughts JC. Unai is the most important and easily the best signing Compass have made. Get the Chief Coach appointment wrong and it’s much worse than wasting £40 million on a dud player because the losses will be so much greater.

    Everywhere you look is impressive. The results, the long hours he works, the detail he covers, the different applications for different opponents, the in game tactical adjustments, the improvement in players coaching and my favourite, the afternoon sessions we’re told he holds after training whilst subjecting the players and opponents to critical, even forensic examination. I’ve long grumbled about players finishing training at lunch time and then heading for the golf course. These guys earn millions and should not be wasting time swinging clubs. After training, they should be doing the theoretical side of things. And that’s what Unai does.

  2. Wherever we finish this season, it has been a success for me. The problems are in the process of being solved. Some great days ahead.

  3. Lovely write up

    Unai is an absolute elite coach.
    Touched on it before when Kamara was mentioned as being pivotal and of course you don’t want to loose your best players for too long but the beauty of having at long bloody last a system and way of playing where everyone is in no doubt what there jobs are means the machine just rolls on without them and you don’t overly miss one player

  4. And the style I love. Possession at last. Calm and keep playing.
    O’Neil ball yes we had some great young players and got those 6th place finishes but god it was a hard watch. Just pure countering and defending for our lives. We had Barry and Milner and young in mid, used to do my nut in seeing us not control the play

  5. Weirdly Unai actually appears at this stage to be almost to good, or to good to be true. You have to wonder why he’s with us and not Bayern or some other modern giant? If he’s not the one to bring success to Villa then we should clearly be looking for someone last seen resurrected at Easter.

  6. MK,

    Does seem too good to be true, yes. Especially as we haven’t been brilliant, just found ways to win.

    Still no idea why he chose us. Maybe the Arse spell tarnished him, along with his time with lesser clubs.

    Obviously have to worry that if he gets us to Europe, one of the big ones will come calling after he’s rehabilitated his reputation.

  7. H&V,

    Agree on both points.

    It was frenzied under MON, and the defending was Keystone Cops most of the time.

    But now, yeah, seems we can slot players in because it’s an actual system and it’s getting communicated well and drilled.

  8. Tbf to unai he has done psg, whom I read he has the highest ever win % and goons went for him

    But there’s a train of thought unai fits very well with a club just under the radar and likes to punch above his weight

  9. But tbh the prem is by far the best league in the world. He has unfinished business and let’s not sell ourselves short, we have the money, fanbase, training ground etc of an elite club. We ain’t a bad proposition taking all that into account!

    And the guys a football nut, and has been given the keys to vp to do as he wants

  10. I completely agree Heroes. We are a great fit for Unai for the reasons you state. The sky is the limit. He’s taken on a club with plenty of upside. The team will evolve with him at the helm. Next season promises to be a cracker. But this season ain’t finished yet either.

  11. yeah plug, whatever happens this season now im over the moon!

    I think we have a chance of finishing 8th, cant see us finishing above brighton or pool but brentford and fulham should be do able and depends if chelsea get there act together!

  12. Whatever Unais ability he doesn’t last or stay long anywhere, so if he gets us into Europe and up the league we will need a serious replacement if he is now the hub of the whole club. Maybe he’ll become a Wenger Or SAF at Villa but the sceptic in me bets against that. Pepe tends to stay and build but he is always at clubs at the sharp end.

    So Dean Smith is at Leicester until season end along with Shakespeare and JT. He must really like a challenge. Good luck to him I hope he pulls it off.

  13. Mark, yep Unai doesn’t stay long at clubs. In some 20 years, he’s coached 9 clubs which means we should enjoy the ride whilst he’s with us. Despite the short termism, he is a serial silverware winner and I’m certainly excited by the improvement shown by Villa.

    It is incumbent on every club owner(s) to start preparing a shortlist of managerial replacements from the moment an appointment is made, not least because buses run past VP. Seems that is the case with Compass owing to the speed that replacements were installed. Then it’s down to quality.

    Judging by the blind panic down the table, not many owners are ready to replace coaches after sackings. In which case, don’t panic in the first place.

  14. yeah go on deaon good luck. could turn out ok as foxes shouldnt be in the bottom 3, crazy. id love to take barnes off them

    but soemthing clearly not right there, the ownership has gone to shite.

    just shows how quick footy can change. they have only just finished 5th and won the cup!

  15. plug

    yeah its really a bonkers season.

    with like 10 games left clubs are sacking managers! for foxes to bin rodgers off, get turned down by marsh and go for deano to end of season is just blind panick.

  16. Yeah sounds a bit premature but its the way it has to be. part of being a well run club, no use Unai getting us champs league to disappear to outer Mongolia for the challenge. I’d hope we could do something like Brentford and find an apprentice as his methods and traits are not so common place.

  17. Newcastle on Saturday will be a real test
    Only real decision will be who replaces Bailey
    Me I would go dendonker push mcginn out wider and let beundi play off Watkins

  18. MK,

    I get it, it’s just amusing. Hopeful that since NSWE got this one right, they’ll be able to line up a replacement when the day comes. Virtually no one stays at a club more than 4-5 years anymore, it seems.

    But who knows. If Unai does get us CL, then he’s back in the big show and maybe it’s more attractive to stay at a ‘smaller’ club without the attendant media circus and financial shenanigans that come with the Super League types. There’s not a lot of clubs that have the financial resources Villa do without a bunch of distractions/obstacles/insane expectations.

    And then if it looks at all possible, he might very well want to go from getting CL to winning the league.

  19. JG, MK

    Newcastle are a test, yes. As we know, won’t be huge lineup changes, but as we also know, Unai will have a way he wants to play it and it will in all likelihood be a good plan.

    As always, will come down to execution. Which is better than having no plan, or one plan that stinks.

  20. Teemu Pukki???????????? How’s that for a mad crazy back up striker idea if Emery still has reservations about the readiness of Archer and Duran. Pukki is a free agent at the end of the season. Yes I know he is over 30 but he could give our 2 young prospects another year to mature. Back to FIFA Football Manager 2024!

  21. JC oh I see the Irony but in the cold light of day we now have something to lose. Having seen many big name clubs struggle after losing there iconic managers it could be us if we don’t have continuity of style etc, Unai seems fairly rare in his ability to see it all, not an easy task.

    We have limped from average to average so far and even down right useless that’s a sort of continuity I suppose.

  22. Pukki ? he’s more back to Ings for me, yeah we have his main creator in Buendia but it didn’t work for Ings. I think we need some pace on the counter. Good player but that’s my reservations, we play with one up top.

  23. Nice to see Cameron Archer score two, plus two assists, for Middlesbrough tonight – and one for Aaron Ramsey too, though he later went off injured. Two for the bench (at least) next season?

  24. Very good half of football. Maybe as good a full half as I’ve seen under Emery. Unlucky not to be 2 or even 3 up.

    Will we regret the missed chances? Who knows.

    But I like what I’ve seen so far. Calm, controlled…They really looked like they knew what they were doing out there. Also a number of smart fouls high up the pitch, good awareness.

  25. That first half was almost too good to be true. Past Villa sides would have thought they had done enough and gone into autopilot and got slowly overrun. Presumably things will be different now.

  26. Wonder if we will still be last on match of the day? Might start checking the league tables again. Bet the media establishment will be annoyed.

  27. Best Villa performance in years. Moreno is class. Amazing going forward. Dendoncker and Luiz solid in CM and SJM and Ramsey are brilliant out wide. How much ground does SJM cover! Delighted for Ollie. He’s now a smart, intelligent striker. I think he has bulked up a bit also. Kamara has his work cut out ti get back in.

    We’re sooooo lucky to have Unai.

  28. Forgot to mention Buendia. Another brilliant performance from him. Love his energy and that he’s openly proud to wear the Villa shirt

  29. You have to laugh, the video I posted shows that we have been lucky apparently and today was the day we would be found out. We dismantled a Newcastle side on a run as good as our own, Oh I know Newcastle had an off day, they have a small squad, the coach was late, the sky was to bright and the grass the wrong shade of green and Villa were lucky to out do them in every facet of the game, ha ha ha ha I’m in tears.

    One thing I have noticed is we don’t have a problem with being out muscled anymore despite not growing 5 inches under Unai.

  30. VillaMD,

    One of those brilliant days when everyone played well. Good decisions, good positioning, plenty of fight. They went out and did what they were supposed to, and such a great result.

    So pleased Dendoncker could just slot right in.

  31. MK,

    Yep, that was a statement. Not a fluke, just finding their way, getting results and belief, and finally it all comes together in a truly convincing display.

    Was interesting that Villa went and matched up with their pressing a lot, kept them from getting any rhythm, since Emery had spoken about the barcodes’ aggressiveness with and without the ball. We haven’t necessarily done a lot of that under Unai.

    Did really well breaking things up in the middle.

  32. Just got home from a raucous, riotous VP. The atmosphere was electric. The Wai Ayes were well and truly schooled and the crowd combusted. It’s the best I’ve seen since the MON days.

  33. It was already pandemonium at kick off but the air split when Ramsey rammed one past Pope and the ground detonated.

    Bodies everywhere. On the floor 3 rows in front of their seats. What an experience. Can’t find the words to describe it, you needed to be there.

  34. A second explosion occurred when Ollie scored the 2nd but it was eventually disallowed by VAR for offside. He didn’t look off to me so it must have been close. It just wound the crowd up another level and next time it did count.

    Then Ollie did it again. A full scale riot developed. Unai is a serial winner. Some weekend ahead. The beers are already flowing.

  35. This was a team performance. Don’t wish to praise anyone in particular other than the coaches but Buendia had an excellent game. So did Moreno. Mings was imperious and Martinez handled everything that came his way. Ollie as usual ran his nuts off but now does so in a calculated and progressive way. His shooting ain’t bad either. The players not mentioned all put in a quality shift. What a result.

  36. The most hotly contested award at season end will be most improved player although Ollie looks in the lead there are plenty of runners, Mings is a different player well done to him.

    JC they couldn’t get near us and despite being bigger in stature never out muscled us with us buying foul after foul.

  37. Can anyone explain why cat weasel (AUSTIN MACPHEE) the set piece king seems to be heavily involved for what will be his 3rd manager? wonder what he’s got on them?

  38. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Elite coaching. I can’t believe my villa eyes. We dismantled the buggers.

    Possession! We just calmly keep the ball! I’m not used to it. I’m a terrible watcher but I’m totally not even worried we will concede now! It’s utterly bonkers what that man has done coming in during a season. No pre season or his own players hd hahahaha i rec commend drinking this in and making the most of it cause it’s never normal. Or is it the new normal!!

  39. I mean just watching the players and it’s so simple but hard! It’s like your great teams Man City prime Barca they make it look so simple watching it.

    You can literally see the players stick and hold there positions and everyone in there best position. Buendia is always between the lines receiving the ball. Watkins just hovers between fb and cb. Mcguinn will come in on his left peg. Mings and konsa will play to Luiz feet or Ramsey… more mings long balls for Watkins to chase. It’s a master class

  40. Dendonker had a great game 97% pass rate 6 tackles and I do like the fact it releases Ginny and the others to get forward and support Watkins. If I was Southgate I’d be asking Unai for one on one lessons.

    Unai is lucky in a way that he has a team that’s been together since Smith, they have been through a lot together and are coming into their own. Before they were reliant on Jack and the likes of Watkins to make all the running now we see Watkins in a much more focused role while others have the belief to fulfil their roles and not just give it and sit back. Part coaching part maturity.

    “I’m being smart with my runs,” Watkins said pre-match yesterday. “Before maybe I was running into the channels and into the corners and doing a lot of work for the team. Now I’m staying within the width of the box and timing my runs.”

    It speaks of a change in mindset too from fear to level playing field. Almost a shame some of the others did not make the journey, I have the feeling Trez would of been a real asset with this less chaotic approach.

  41. JG yes Pete must be over the moon couldn’t have timed it better.

    Robbo? I did wonder but then I haven’t been on much myself as been very busy and to be fair what can you say, there’s little to pick apart. probably hols and work in these wonderful times and hopefully not health related.

  42. It’s the second week running Beaky has been at VP. Don’t think he was there to watch any players. More likely there to watch a master coach show how it’s done.

    I’m also concerned at the silence from rObB0, hope he’s OK.

  43. Hopefully R0bb0 is ok.

    MK – yeah, would be interesting to see Trez under Unai.

    Agreed with comments on Dendoncker and Luiz giving us a solid base. Dendoncker for Bailey is a huge improvement

    With Kamara, Tim and Bogarde we have a solid 5 to pick from for CM.

    Delighted to see Nakamba rocking it at Luton

  44. Please everyone, it’s SUPERTREZ! Also think El Goalzi would have been an asset to Emery. As a manager, G****rd was a pregnant goldfish.

  45. Hi All. . . . all good here thanks, and like everyone else, thoroughly enjoying seeing Villa’s progress.
    Have just been really busy (didn’t think retirement would be like this). Have been checking in on the site but just for quick catch ups rather than making comments.
    Have stopped commenting on twitter too and an ex colleague called as he was being asked if I was still in the land of the living . . . but I stopped going on there because I reckoned I (and the rest of the world too probably)would be better without it!

  46. We were out walking yesterday but I kept up to date by watching the live bbc text. It was disappointing to see that some Newcastle fans have already taken on an arrogant, ‘entitled’ attitude. Typical of the type of comments were those suggesting that they should easily be beating this ‘average’ Villa side.
    To be honest, I’d have thought that our squads are of similar quality, but both sides now have good managers and are probably slightly over-achieving

  47. r0bb0

    Bah whippersnapper. Retirement is bloody hard work and requires lots of effort and dedication. Those boytoys will not get played with by themselves – no time for football essays.

  48. ◉ Most goals in the PL in 2023: Ollie Watkins (11)
    ◉ Most goals + assists in the PL in 2023: Ollie Watkins (14)
    ◉ Most clean sheets in the PL in 2023: Aston Villa (8)
    ◉ Most points won in the PL in 2023: Aston Villa (32)

  49. And that is why, MK, I am simply loving the ride. Those stats are the result of Unai’s work and his coaching staff. Yes, it’s the players delivering them but only because of the guidance received.

    If I’m apprehensive, it’s down to Ollie being the major man. I’d like to see some goals from the other players too.

    But this Monday, I’m still on fire at putting the Wai Ayes to the sword.

  50. MK, those stats are seriously impressive but I’m sure the vast majority of Villa fans remain as apprehensive as Plug. The great thing about that, is that every victory still comes as an exciting and unexpected surprise.

    Contrast that with the Newcastle fans who’ve been denigrating us on their forums all week as we’ve had an ‘easy run’ and only been beating ‘easy’ teams. There’s some truth to this of course, as over the past 8 games, we’ve ‘only’ beaten 2 teams who were in the top half on form over that period with 6 in the bottom half.

    It’s funny how the mentality of the two clubs is so different though, because when you actually look at Newcastle’s form over the same 8 game period, they’ve only beaten 2 teams in the top half (on form over this period) whereas they’ve lost against 3 of the top 5 teams they’ve met over those games (if you include Saturday’s game against us).

    So yes. . .they have had a much tougher run, meeting 5 ‘in form’ teams as opposed to our 2, but they’ve lost 3 of those games and like us, won 2.

    Five of our final 7 games will be against teams in the top half of the table based on current form so it’s a tough run in, and despite recent results I bet most of us are as apprehensive as we are excited, but in the final run in, teams fighting for survival can put up the strongest fights, so I’m not sure that recent form is much of a guide to which teams are going to be the hardest to beat over the next 2 months.

    What I would bet on though is that Unai will be working bloody hard to set us up in the best way he can for each of those final 7 games.

  51. jbd. . . .you’re right about retirement being hard work, but as for the ‘boy toys’. . . . I love the idea of them and as I thought I’d have the time, I’ve even bought some . . . . . shame I seem to be too old to get the bloody things to work!

  52. I must of watched the toon highlights x100. im still in shock what unai has done…..6th!!


    what i love and what we have seen when every player is coached and knows exactly what to do the machine rolls on. no Kamara…no prob. No Cash no prob. bert comes in…impact. dendonker comes in superb. same with chambers the other day….having such a good set up the players can come in and know there role.

  53. I think Newcastle’s season has been a surprise from the start to the established top 6, Villa are still looked at as the team before the world cup, relegation fodder. Until this game many experts’ were all singing the same tune.

    They are waiting for us to implode and so are many Villa fans. Funny thing is many of the players have more than one role and can play in more than one position, that makes it difficult to second guess how we will set out game to game.

    There are also games we let points get away from us like the Leicester and arsenal games. Both at home and that home form has been steadily turned around over the recent games and they look as competent home or away.

    Players are talking about instruction and learning things they’d never heard before, Mcginn is waxing lyrical about playing the Spanish way and being encouraged to keep the ball whereas before he played in the way he had for years apparently.

    We are being knocked for having fairly low XG which having watched the games I don’t understand as we fashion good chances on the whole with some very clever movement.

  54. Overall…Yeah, the ‘too good to be true’ feeling.

    There will be ups and downs, like for toon Saturday. Nice runs obviously can push you right up the table, and we could all see it was the right set of fixtures at the right time.

    It gets tougher, but the team are playing better and have belief.

    And then of course, however this season finishes, it’s quickly about next season and having a clear expectation from Day One that 6th or higher is the goal. As we’ve seen, not easy over 38 games. And harder still if we do manage to get European nights back.

    But I feel confident that it isn’t a fluke because it’s clearly about all the things we’ve been wanting. A clear system, players knowing their roles and improving, tactics, analysis, coaching. Which is why everyone’s so over the moon about the last performance. It all came together.

    So, Villa are being run properly and that’s all you can ask for. The owners will back Unai, and I would imagine the overall quality and threat will increase. The foundation seems solid. So, I suppose it comes down to the usual factors like the odd bit of good or bad luck, significant injuries, etc., and finding that consistency, getting more draws.

  55. What’s really unbelievable is we are 6 off utd in 3rd, how did we catch all these top sides? they must have been fairly shocking considering our season start, the goal difference is massive too.

  56. Our XG against Newcastle was 1.93 yet we battered them. For the full 90 minutes. As well as the 3 scored, there was a very tight offside goal chalked off, the woodwork hit twice and Pope stopped 2 efforts with an outstretched leg. Could have been 8.

    This is what all the excitement is about. I don’t think Newcastle had an off day, they played as well as they were allowed to. Wonderful watching Trippier complaining like mad to the ref as Moreno grilled him like toast time and again. Wonderful seeing Burn fighting a losing battle with SJM all game. Wonderful witnessing the big guys Joelinton and Guimares getting the run around from our midfield.

    Just a great performance.

  57. John, Thanks for not banning me. . . . . reassuring to know I’ve not fallen into the Frem category.

    Ultimately it was his obsession with Watkins that got him banned and if only he could have accepted that Watkins was a good footballer who’d lost his form, rather than incessantly and crudely, maligning him, then it would have been different. It does highlight what a transformation there has been in Ollie’s performance since Gerrard was sacked though. Ollie’s stats for the whole season would look so much better if his skills hadn’t been wasted for the first dozen games.

    It’s not just Ollie, McGinn is also rejuvenated and there were quite a few of us on here who were questioning his innate ability and value to the side. In his case, Gerard’s mismanagement is even more obvious. For a player who apparently enjoys being a team player, it must have been tough to take on the captaincy from Mings after Gerrard had treated the latter so badly.

    Dean Smith built a great camaraderie and team spirit in a way which Gerrard’s ego and lack of empathy is unlikely to ever allow him to do. There have been questions about whether Smith was ‘too’ close and friendly with the players though and if that stopped the players being as professional as they might have been. You sense that Emery is less likely to be ‘mates’ with the players but will manage by gaining respect, and hopefully that will be sustained, with Villa, for a little while yet.

  58. Some mutterings in the press that we may go after Kyle Walker – any thoughts? Personally, good player though he undoubtedly is, I consider him frankly poisonous as a human being and wouldn’t want him anywhere near our club. Am I being unrealistic?

  59. viva, my thoughts are….. Unai understands exactly what this team needs and I have complete trust in any player he signs (or sells). Not every one will work out but the majority will. Mutterings in the press for me, are just that. They have to write some football drivel or other, it’s their job. I’m relaxed and will watch with interest who comes in and who goes out.

    But if you are Walker? Not easy to swallow when your manager publicly says you’re not intelligent enough to play the system he now employs. The same manager who last season changed Grealish to play the pass and move game plan that wasted his talent. The same manager who this season let Grealish play like he did at Villa and everyone raves not only about the player but also the brilliant change by the manager. Give me a break.

  60. but yeah im not fussed or worried.

    unai can buy who the hell he wants im not worried. trust him 100%

    Moreno 🙂 12 mill…..what a player he is starting to look.

    transforning the team with his lung bursting runs….taking it to the bye line and beating a player.

    i think we were all like meh why do we need a new lb when we got him….but unai knows!

  61. Hi Everyone,
    I am about and do follow everyone’s comments, but been struggling lately, and the one highlight, is the amazing turnround of Villa under Unai, and being able to see every game!
    Dumfries is one that looks interesting H&V, and in the Emery mould.
    Just finished reading a very good article on Unai and Villa which sums up what is being achieved.
    It shows how Unai has developed players like Dendoncker, who can just slot in.
    Looking forward now to Brentford on Saturday, which should be a great game of football.

  62. Plug, It has indeed been interesting to see the Pep/Grealish coaching and management relationship evolve over the past 2 years.
    Happily his greater footballing knowledge and intelligence was finally heeded, and Grealish managed to show Pep how he should be used.

    It’s possible that there are a few excellent managers in the Premiership now but I’m still not totally convinced that Pep is one of them. That may be a daft thing to say when you consider the trophies that Pep has won for them, but you can’t help wondering what a Ferguson or Wenger would have achieved given unlimited funds. Which other managers would have been able to win the Champion’s league if they’d inherited a very good side and then had 7/8 years of freedom to buy whichever player they wanted?

    I’ve always rated Kyle Walker and reckon he has a few good years left in him, but there is a question about whether he’s the right sort of character for our club.

  63. PP, keep on trucking and get down to VP at every opportunity. When it’s rocking, there’s no better feeling.

    Whisper it, but progress is excellent. Champions League anyone? Or have I taken too many funny tablets?

  64. PP, We’re starting to see some press interest in Villa now . . . .blimey. . . .how long has it taken them to start seeing beyond their infatuation with their favourites?

    To be honest, I’ve been quite happy with our Dambusters type flight under the radar, but it was inevitable that we’d finally be spotted once we were in sight of the target.

    This must surely be making even someone with as thick a skin as Gerrard a little uncomfortable as people start to question why we were SO bad while he was manager. I even saw Newcastle fans on their blogs over the weekend saying that Gerrard should have been arrested for his abuse of our squad.

  65. Plug, again on the Newcastle blogs they were starting to whisper that we may be a threat to their CL spot. I don’t see it personally even though we’ve done absolutely brilliantly. Martinez was apparently shouting in the tunnel after the Newcastle game “just 7 more finals to go guys!” but it would take an astonishing run of results for us, plus quite a few slip ups by other to get us close.

    Anyone else finding it hard to know what results you want from other games though? I’m no longer sure where to look in the table.For example, do we want Newcastle to beat Spurs to give us a better chance of a Europa spot, or are we ‘really considering a CL spot so want a Newcastle loss or maybe a draw?

    The other question is whether it really is still a year too soon for us and we’d be better finishing 8th? (I’m damn sure the players aren’t thinking that)

    I think I said at the start of the season I thought we could finish 8th – 11th and I’ll have to amend that now to 6th – 8th but I still reckon 8th is the most likely.

  66. Plug, I wish we could get to Villa park more regularly but it isn’t so easy now I live in Devon (and tickets are much harder to come by at short notice), but i will be at the Spurs game and hope our run is still going by then!

  67. Absolutely Plug,
    Saturday was the first game that I haven’t made in a log time, but it was going to be a very early start for me, and as I now have to rely a lot on oxygen, becomes more difficult. I do intend to make the Fulham game though, and just take my time.
    I think the Pep/Grealish situation was more about Pep wanting JG to learn the City way, and be more a team player, release the ball quicker, etc. Now that Jack understands Pep’s methods, he has been given the freedom, but it is disciplined, working much more clinically for the team, and he is a much better player for it. He is still not at his full potential, but he is getting there.
    We are so fortunate to have Unai , who is certainly in the same league as Pep, when it comes to coaching and finding success.
    We have a diamond for a manager, and let us hope that he will now stay for years to come.

  68. PP, you’re far too dispassionate and balanced for my liking. . . . I prefer my anti Pep prejudiced view of his time at City 🙂

    Right now I reckon we all hope that Emery will be with us for some time, even though his track record suggests that may be wishful thinking. He does apparently have a good relationship with Sawaris though and hopefully can see himself fulfilling his ambitions with us rather than elsewhere.

  69. Amazing that not so long back we had a squad that couldn’t pass and move and needed replacing (everyone said so) . For me a large part of this is down to the maturation of the Build smith started. Unfortunately he lost jack after a decent second season late on in the window. Yes we were reliant on Jack but that’s not surprising and the start of the season /pre -season was full of injuries etc. The club had stated they were buying 1st to take pressure off jack and then fibbed about buying to fill his place, 3 players to replace one? shows you what Jack was to us. The team itself was a very young side and is still. Gerrard started the buy oldies route which took us nowhere but down (probably not the players fault as such although Digne? ) .

    My Question is how much is Unai and how much is maturity of the team and players? In fact as we praise Unais purchase of Moreno as wizardly lets not forget that the teams 95% Deans, buys we have chastised and scorned. How many other teams could Unai have walked into and had progress so quickly? Maybe a side built to counter as we are is part of the reason? We also know there’s a defensive unit there but he is without doubt an incredible coach. when I hear his pressers though I’m struggling to follow him so how do the players when it gets technical? I’d like to hear his conversations with McGinn 🙂

    I’m guessing the size of the rebuild will tell us a lot.

  70. MK,

    Think it’s a bit of both. The side have been together for a while, they know each other, and they have a lot more experience on the pitch and off.

    The way we’re playing (style) is down to Emery. Lots of drilling and actual coaching, as we’ve all noted. It’s producing results because he’s making sure the players know what to do and he’s insisting on that way. They have enough of it in their locker to play his style.

    So, like you say, we’ll see what the summer brings and what it ends up saying. Are we straight replacing, building for depth and rotation, all the above? I’m sure it’ll be a different kind of summer than it might otherwise be if we pip a Euro spot.

  71. I’m guessing the Gerrard era had quite an effect on a lot of them, a hunger to play differently, be used in ways that suit them, etc.

    Suppose I’m saying they might be very receptive and diligent since they were made to look so poor and must’ve been hating their football.

    But that’s not to say they aren’t a decent/hard-working/receptive bunch. Given the disaster that Gerrard was, will always wonder what would’ve happened had Smith stayed. But, if all that had to happen for Emery to end up at Villa, I’m okay with the sequence of events.

  72. MK,

    Yeah, not bad…I think that’s pretty much what most of us are trying to say in one way or another.

    When Emery does get better players, will the football grow? The dig about him and mid-level clubs (he is a Leeds fan), I’m assuming that’s why Emery wanted back in the PL. He does have something to prove, and the owners have the budget.

    Me, I’d imagine that such an obsessive analyst would have no issues with different approaches if he can have the kind of talent that gives him the flexibility. Since he watches so much film, don’t think any of it’s lost on him.

    But of course we have to wait and see.

  73. Hi MK,
    I have had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis since 2017, but had no real problem with it until a few months ago when I developed a bad cough, but now I have to rely on oxygen most of the time.
    So far I have just about managed at matches, but now it is getting harder.

  74. Plug,
    That’s a really interesting article. The bit that really hit me was when he talks about leaving his family in Argentina to join the Real Madrid academy. . . .at age 11 !!!!!

    I do like very much the way he talks about Emery and his team not just coaching him tactically, but also mentally, in other words, an all round approach to the game.

    I’ve seen a number of similar comments from Ollie Watkins, about how the coaching staff spend a lot of time with the players, showing them exactly what they want from them and how to ‘achieve more by doing less’.

    It’s all too easy to get carried away when you’re on a winning run and I saw plenty of comments from Newcastle fans last weekend saying how the most important thing is how you respond to a setback. We’re bound to have a set back at some point (hopefully not this weekend) but you imagine that Emery and the team will be pretty adept at coaching the players through it and lifting them for the next challenge.

  75. Hi PP- Sad to hear it mate hope it improves, Me being me have your doctors ever checked your Vit D levels? For one you get coughs and colds when its low in winter and for another it has a very promontory role in Fibrosis particularly in the lungs.

  76. JC- I suppose it kind of bears out because not many bosses end up at the top clubs long, they may win something by default but to win year after year you have to have the ability to utilise the best players and keep respect. It might appear that Pepe is only winning because he has the best players but so have many others and not won much.

  77. Mark, I’ve no idea if Vit D might be relevant in PP’s case, but this week I’ve been forced to recognise that I’ve not been ensuring that my own levels are high enough. I hadn’t realised that our ability to generate Vit D falls as we get older so we need to find ways of producing or consuming more.

  78. MK,

    Yeah…the ‘top clubs’ stay there simply by accumulation of talent. But there’s always a weak link. We just haven’t seen much of it.

    Chelsea and Pool might get cut adrift this year, but with so much quality on the books, it just takes a good appointment to get them right back in it. See United.

    Would be the same with City.

    So unless there’s real poison and/or serial mismanagement up top, it’s hard to dislodge them. But. It can happen, and hungry guys like Emery, Di Zerbi…give them the players, you never know.

  79. Plug,

    Yeah, good insight into Buendia. I’ve loved his fire, focus. Like r0bb0 says, very interesting to hear the little bits being coached, controlling his emotions, etc.

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