Emery has Villa Park bouncing to his beat

In-form Midlanders are firmly on the rise as...

By Aadam Patel AT VILLA PARK



dmg media (UK)


Premier League

IN a Premier League table since Unai Emery took over before the World Cup, Aston Villa would be joint-fourth with 26 points in 14 games, behind only Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. And while a win over relegationthreatened Bournemouth — who have won just eight points on the road all season — might have been expected, this was another sign of how terrific a job Emery is doing. All in front of the owners of Villa, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, who were here at Villa Park. When Emery took charge in October, Villa were below Bournemouth. They are now 14 points ahead of them. Dragged in with the club stuggling with inconsistent form, the Spaniard has them looking up rather than down and perhaps even gearing towards a late-season push for a place in Europe. ‘I’m happy,’ said Emery. ‘Three points, clean sheet. Some individual performances are improving. We are improving in our style and idea, keeping possession and in our positioning.’ As the boombox in the Villa dressing room could be heard in full flow, he added: ‘Maybe the last 10 minutes is when we connect with our supporters and feel really good on the pitch. It’s the moment we have enjoyed the most with our supporters.’ Both managers name unchanged sides, with Gary O’Neil sticking with the same eleven that beat Liverpool last weekend but it took Villa just seven minutes to take the lead with a move started and finished by Douglas Luiz. The Brazilian picked up the ball in his own half, drove into opposition territory and found Ollie Watkins, whose effort was blocked but the ball fell to Leon Bailey. With a burst of pace past Lloyd Kelly, Bailey created an angle to put the ball across goal where Luiz was waiting for a simple tap-in. It was the ninth goal Bournemouth had conceded in the first 15 minutes of games this season — the worst in the Premier League. Yet the visitors could have levelled instantly and Villa skipper John McGinn was a lucky man when Jaidon Anthony failed to capitalise on his loose pass. Philip Billing headed over when he was free, before Dominic Solanke’s effort was saved by Emi Martinez. Just as the visitors were building, against the run of play, Villa should have doubled their lead when Emi Buendia threaded Watkins through on goal but Neto saved. Villa were then denied a penalty when Jacob Ramsey’s strike hit the hand of Jack Stephens but VAR decided it was in a natural position. Still, the visitors pushed forward. Dango Ouattara won a free kick on the edge of the box but Billing’s strike was superbly tipped over by Martinez. O’Neil put on David Brooks with 11 minutes remaining, for his first appearance since September 2021, after he was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma. The Villa Park crowd applauded in unison for the Welshman. Some things are bigger than football. That applause turned into celebrations a minute later when Ramsey finished from close range after a knockdown from Watkins. And the three points were wrapped up shortly after when Buendia headed in from a corner. ‘I don’t think we were well beaten, We created numerous opportunities and weren’t clinical enough to take them,’ said O’Neil, who knows that with 11 games left, his side have it all to do if they want to be playing Premier League football next season.