EPL

Aston Villa-bound Emery was his 'best version' at Villarreal

By Sports Desk October 25, 2022

New Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery thanked Villarreal for allowing him to show his "best version" during two years with the Yellow Submarine.

Villa confirmed Emery as Steven Gerrard's successor on Monday, with the Basque coach set to formally take the reins on November 1.

Gerrard was sacked straight after last Thursday's chastening 3-0 Premier League defeat at Fulham, which left them with just nine points from 11 matches.

Emery's appointment sees him return to the Premier League after previously succeeding Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and spending 18 months with the Gunners before being dismissed in November 2019.

He joined Villarreal eight months later and enjoyed just over two years at Estadio de la Ceramica, leading them to Europa League success in 2021 – the fourth of his career, a record – and the Champions League semi-finals earlier this year.

Speaking at a farewell press conference on Tuesday, Emery paid tribute to Villarreal for giving him the backing and resources to be his best self.

"Here I have been very me," he told reporters in an emotional address.

"They gave me the conditions to be my best version of me, [but] you have to continue having challenges.

"In Villarreal I've had a home. I called Fernando [Roig, club president] on Friday to tell him the situation, that I wanted to play the game on Sunday and then on Monday to meet again.

"[On Monday] everything was unleashed. I called Fernando only when there was already something more serious going on."

On his move, Emery added: "It is a professional and personal decision.

"I always carry my baggage, with many complicated and beautiful moments. Here I found a very important family and I have felt something of heart again.

"But the profession is within me. I felt I had to take this option. It's a different challenge, but professionally a very good one."

First-team coach Aaron Danks took charge of Villa's 4-0 win over Brentford on Sunday and will remain at the helm for Saturday's trip to Newcastle United.

Emery's time at Villa will begin with back-to-back matches against Manchester United, first hosting them in the Premier League on November 6 before going to Old Trafford four days later in the EFL Cup.

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    The sin bin protocols, which would involve players being dismissed for 10 minutes for dissent and tactical fouls, had been signed off by the directors of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and were ready for publication on February 9, at which point competitions would have been able to apply to conduct a trial.

    However, the plug was pulled on publication that morning following media reports about blue cards the previous day.

    FIFA issued a statement on the evening of February 8 saying the reports concerning a blue card at elite levels of football were “incorrect and premature”.

    “Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on March 2,” the statement concluded.

    Sin bins have already been tested successfully in grassroots and youth football, but the PA news agency understands the intention of the protocols which were pulled at the last minute had been to test them at much higher levels, with the only exception being senior national team competitions and the highest domestic league in any country, where a team had the ability to qualify for a continental competition.

    The idea had been that the protocols could be introduced to the very top level once refined. All players on the pitch, including goalkeepers, could be sent to the sin bin under the original protocol, PA understands, but substitutes and coaching staff could not be.

    Fouls such as the cynical tug by Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on England’s Bukayo Saka in the Euro 2020 final was set to be a sin bin offence within one of the protocols, PA understands.

    FIFA’s statement last month contrasted with comments from the chairman of its referees committee Pierluigi Collina at the IFAB annual business meeting last November.

    The Italian said at the time: “The trial was very successful in a grassroots competition. Now we are talking of a higher level, very probably professional or even high professional football.

    “We need to draft something that works or is worthy for top football.”

    The Football Association, one of the five bodies which makes up the IFAB, was understood to have been interested in running a trial in the men’s and women’s FA Cups in the future.

    It is not clear whether the sin bin trial protocols will be published in the same format planned on February 9 following Saturday’s annual general meeting at Loch Lomond, but pitched at lower-level competitions than originally intended, or whether the protocols themselves will be reworked and publication delayed beyond this weekend.

    A first meeting is due to take place on Friday evening ahead of the AGM itself on Saturday morning.

    The introduction of sin bin trials and the blue card at any level of the professional game would mark the biggest single shift in player discipline since the introduction of red and yellow cards for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

    The IFAB had also been poised to publish details of a trial which gave referees the option of creating a ‘captain-only zone’ around them when they felt threatened or intimidated, and one giving the referee the option to send teams to a cooling-off area in the event of mass confrontations.

    All of these had the intention of improving player behaviour, something FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said is essential to set the right example to young players and ensure people still feel safe, and encouraged, to be referees.

    Another trial that had been set for publication on February 9 concerned how long goalkeepers can handle the ball, and how play should restart when they hold on too long.

    Currently keepers can hold on for six seconds and anything over that is supposed to be penalised with an indirect free-kick, but lawmakers are concerned this is not being properly enforced.

    The management of head injuries is also on the AGM agenda.

    The World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO have again written to the IFAB asking for permission to trial temporary concussion substitutes, something which was again rejected at last year’s AGM in London.

    The player union and domestic league in Scotland, this year’s host nation, are among those seeking the right to conduct such a trial.

    “From our perspective, we have a responsibility to those former players who are sadly living with dementia,” PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said.

    “But we also have to take responsibility as a game – whether it’s the unions, leagues, the government bodies – for current players and future players, to minimise the chances, as much as we possibly can, of players getting dementia. We’re involved in this initiative because we do feel that temporary concussion subs are the next step forward.”

    Trials of permanent concussion substitutes were first approved by the IFAB in December 2020.

  • Eddie Howe says his Newcastle future ‘will be defined by what I do, no one else’ Eddie Howe says his Newcastle future ‘will be defined by what I do, no one else’

    Eddie Howe has insisted he will dictate his own future at Newcastle amid speculation linking the Germany head coach Julian Nagelsmann with his job.

    The Magpies head into Saturday’s Premier League clash with Wolves sitting in 10th place and way off the pace they set last season to secure a top-four finish.

    A report from Germany has claimed Newcastle could turn to the former Bayern boss if they decide to replace Howe at the end of the campaign.

    Asked about the speculation, Howe said: “Genuinely, it doesn’t affect me. I’m here. I’m sat in the seat. My future will be defined by what I do, no one else.”

    Howe has made a major impact at St James’ Park since his appointment in November 2021, first steering the club out of a relegation fight and then masterminding a charge to last season’s Carabao Cup final and Champions League qualification.

    He freely admits that represented a significant overachievement, and a premature exit from Europe coupled with a far more mundane campaign this time around, one which has been peppered with injuries to key players, have led to a degree of criticism.

    However, head coach Howe remains defiant as he plots a strong finish having seen his side book a difficult FA Cup quarter-final trip to Manchester City in midweek.

    He said: “It’s up to me to continually prove [myself]. I back myself and my ability. I know my qualities. I know what I bring to the job and I have ambitions for the team and the club.

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    Howe was appointed by the club’s new owners within weeks of their takeover and has enjoyed solid support for the work he has done so far.

    He said: “From the people at the club – it is difficult for me to speak for them – I have felt a support and an understanding for things that have been thrown at us and things that have happened. It is important I feel that support.”

    Whatever pressure Howe finds himself under, he at least has an outlet after revealing his efforts to learn how to play the piano are ongoing.

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    When it was suggested he might have to perform karaoke if his team won the FA Cup, he replied: “If we win a cup, I’ll do anything.”

  • Jordan Henderson was ‘one of our best signings’, says Saudi league vice-chairman Jordan Henderson was ‘one of our best signings’, says Saudi league vice-chairman

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    Henderson hinted at regrets over his move to the Middle East in his introductory press conference in Amsterdam.

    He had previously championed LGBTQ+ rights and was widely condemned over the move to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

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    Henderson said on January 19: “In life, if you want to call them regrets or mistakes, you can call them that.

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    “Looking back, at the time, obviously it was a big decision. It was a decision I felt was right for me and my family at the time, but things happen. Things change quickly in football.

    “I had to make another decision and this (joining Ajax) is the one I felt was right decision for me.”

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