Unai Emery Aston Villa

Unai Emery extends Villa stay

The Spaniard has been a revelation at Aston Villa, and the future looks very bright for the Villans following his contract extension.

The atmosphere at Aston Villa Football Club right now could not be better. The Villans currently find themselves sat in 4th place with 66 points after 34 matches and with so little football remaining in the 2023/24 Premier League season, Villa are the front runners to claim that fourth and final UEFA Champions League Qualification ahead of Spurs.

And, even if the club does not manage to secure a top four spot, they will likely qualify for the UEFA Europa League, which is not only an elite competition just like the Champions League, it is very much still representative of an incredible season for all those of an Aston Villa persuasion.

The architect and figurehead of this rapid rise is Head Coach Unai Emery, who is currently experiencing his maiden season in charge of the West Midlands outfit.

With the Villa in such a good position in the league table, it comes as no surprise that the Villans have chosen to extend his contract to 2027. Not only is this good news for the club and its fans, but it also deters any potential interest from the likes of Bayern Munich. Reports also suggest that Emery will extend his deal at Villa further in the summer.

The Spanish Head Coach began his managerial career with Lorca Deportiva in the 2004/05 campaign with the club in Spain’s Third Division at the time. In his first season at the club, he guided them to their first-ever promotion to the second tier for the first time in the history of the club, helping them to a 5th place finish the season after.

He departed for fellow second division club Almeria in 2006, guiding them to promotion to La Liga for the very first time by the conclusion of the 2006/07 campaign before establishing them in the Spanish top flight with an 8th place finish a season later in 2007/08.

This achievement persuaded Valencia to hire Emery as their new Head Coach ahead of the 2008/09 campaign where he led them to UEFA Europa League qualification in 6th place. It was a third place finish and UEFA Champions League qualification a season later.

Following 4 successful years at Los Che, he then moved on to Spartak Moscow for a brief spell with the Russian Football Club in 2012. However, he was dismissed after just 6 months – but did land on his feet with a move back to Spain’s La Liga with Sevilla on 14th January 2013.

Emery’s stock grew exponentially at Sevilla. Over the course of his 3 year stay at the club, he won 3 UEFA Europa League titles in a row (2013/14, 2014/15 & 2015/16). His third and final Europa League win with the club saw him get the better of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, beating them 3 – 1 at St. Jakob Park in Basel, Switzerland.

French Giants Paris Saint-Germain then came calling, and he took charge of the Parisians on 28th June 2016. During his time in France, he won the Ligue 1 title in 2017/18, two Coupe de France titles (2016/17, & 2017/18), two Coupe de la Ligue titles (2016/17 & 2017/18), and finally two Trophee des Champions titles in 2016 and then in 2017.

Once he had left the club, he took over at Arsenal on 23rd May 2018, just under a month after announcing his departure from PSG. At the beginning of his tenure, he won 11 games in a row in charge of the Gunners – this was their best spell of Premier League form since 2007. At the end of his first season, his team narrowly missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification in 5th place.

He did however lead Arsenal to the 2019 UEFA Europa League Final where they were beaten 4 – 1 by London rivals Chelsea. He was dismissed on 29th November 2019 before later taking over at Spanish club Villarreal of La Liga.

He took charge of the Yellow Submarine on 23rd July 2020, and during his time at the club, he won his fourth UEFA Europa League title in 2021 after successfully beating Manchester United 11 – 10 on penalties following a 1 – 1 draw after normal and then subsequently extra time. Then, after turning down Newcastle United, Emery led Villarreal to the semi-finals of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League, being eliminated by eventual winners Liverpool after having beaten the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich.

It was on 24th October 2022 that Unai Emery succeeded Steven Gerrard to take charge of Aston Villa who were 17th when he finally took over with them only out of the relegation zone on goals scored. His era at the club began with an impressive 3 – 1 win against Manchester United at Villa Park, a first win against the Red Devils since August 1995.

After earning an incredible 49 points out of a possible 75 Villa returned to European Football for the first time in more than a decade with UEFA Europa Conference League football secured after a 7th place finish. This position was secured ahead of Spurs following a 2 – 1 win over Brighton in B6 on the final day of the 2022/23 Premier League season.

This victory against the Seagulls was the fifth in a row, which occurred for the first time since 1998, and this was also the first time that the Villans had won 7 consecutive league matches at Villa Park since the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93. Their tally of 15 wins was also the Villa’s joint best record for a 38 match season to date.

However, this is a record that has of course been broken emphatically in the 2023/24 season where, at the time of writing, Aston Villa have so far secured no less than 20 victories so far, beating the previous record by no less than 5 games.

There were some particularly high-profile signings during Emery’s first summer in charge, bringing in the likes of defender Pau Torres from former club Villarreal and French forward Moussa Diaby from German club Bayer Leverkusen.

A 1 – 0 victory at Villa Park against Arsenal on 9th December 2023 meant that Aston Villa had won 15 league games in a row at home – the best record in the almost 150 year history of the club. This did come after a dominant 1 – 0 win against reigning Premier League Champions Manchester City in B6.

We have also seen other impressive Premier League victories, such as a 6 – 1 triumph over Brighton, a 2 – 0 win at the Emirates Stadium against Mikel Arteta’s title chasing Arsenal, and a 4 – 1 win over West Ham.

Fast forward to April 2024, and Aston Villa currently find themselves in 4th place, 6 points ahead of Spurs in 5th, and have 66 points overall with 4 matches to go. Tottenham do have 2 games in hand at the moment, but Villa is still in the driving seat for that final Champions League spot in 4th place.

Ollie Watkins is Aston Villa’s leading Premier League goal scorer this term (2023/24) with no less than 19 goals to his name to date. Only Chelsea’s Cole Palmer and Manchester City striker Erling Haaland have scored more with 20 each.

Watkins is also leading the way in the Premier League in terms of assists with 12 as of the time of writing. The next best record is that of Brighton’s Pascal Gross and Kieran Trippier with both having 10 each.

Leon Bailey is second in the Villa squad for both goals and assists. The Jamaica international forward has got on the scoresheet a total of 10 times as well as providing a total of 9 assists in the English top flight to date.

Moving on to the UEFA Europa Conference League, Aston Villa topped their group with 13 points, finishing ahead of the likes of Poland’s Legia Warsaw, the Netherlands’ AZ Alkmaar and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Zrinjski Mostar.

Then, in the Round of 16, European heavyweights Ajax were their opponents. After drawing 0 – 0 against the Dutch club in Amsterdam, Villa were subsequently emphatic 4 – 0 winners in the second and final leg of this tie at Villa Park a fortnight later. Ollie Watkins (25’), Leon Bailey (60’), Jhon Duran (75’), and Moussa Diaby (81’) were all the goal scorers for Unai Emery’s side that day.

LOSC Lille of Ligue 1, France’s top flight, came next in the Quarter Finals, and a 2 – 1 win in the first leg at home at Villa Park saw Ollie Watkins (13’) again on the scoresheet alongside Scotland international midfielder John McGinn (56’). Matty Cash was the only goal scorer for Villa in a 2 – 1 defeat in the second leg in France, but they won 4 – 3 on penalties.

This saw them qualify for their first European Semi-Final since they did so in the European Cup in 1982, and they will be facing Greek Giants Olympiacos over two legs in May.

If Aston Villa make it to the Final in Athens, they will be facing the winner of the other Semi-Final tie, which is to be contested between Belgium’s Club Brugge and 2023 Finalists Fiorentina of Italy’s Serie A on 27th May 2024.

With Aston Villa currently on an upward trajectory and what looks likely to be a very bright future ahead, it is no surprise that fans, players, and staff alike are delighted to see Unai Emery extend his stay in B6 for some time to come.

Excitement and anticipation are now building rapidly for the remainder of Aston Villa’s season, where they are in the hunt for UEFA Champions League qualification and the UEFA Europa Conference League title under the stewardship of Head Coach Unai Emery.

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