EPL

Unai Emery keen to keep things balanced at upwardly mobile Aston Villa

By Sports Desk December 07, 2023

Unai Emery was trying to keep a lid on the excitement levels after his Aston Villa side outclassed stuttering Manchester City in Wednesday’s 1-0 win to move above the defending champions and into third place.

Leon Bailey’s deflected strike in the 74th minute was enough to seal a 14th straight home win for Villa and add to the growing sense of belief that something special is brewing in the west Midlands.

Pep Guardiola declared that Emery’s side should “definitely” be considered among the title contenders after watching his depleted side struggle to contain a Villa team who had 22 shots at goal to City’s two.

But Emery played down any title talk and insisted there is still much work to do in developing his side, who face leaders Arsenal at home on Saturday.

“We created lots of chances and we controlled the attack in the high press,” Emery said. “We were believing. In my career, hopefully more in the next weeks, months and years I can continue improving as a coach and with the team I am trying to build.

“(The performance) was fantastic but we must keep a balance. The dressing room is happy, but the next challenge is on Saturday. (On Thursday) we are focusing again on Saturday.”

Wednesday night was Emery’s 50th game in charge. When the Spaniard arrived a little more than a year ago, Villa were near the foot of the table and fearing a relegation battle but he took them into the Europa Conference League and now the Champions League looks a genuine possibility.

Asked to reflect on his first 50 games, Emery pointed to last February, when back-to-back 4-2 home defeats at the hands of Leicester and Arsenal offered a learning moment.

“I can come back in my mind and think how we were when we started this process,” he said. “We lost against Leicester and Arsenal at home, 4-2. We couldn’t concede eight goals in two matches at home like we did.

“It was a key moment when we reacted in a meeting with the players, focusing more our idea and our style, building and being very demanding in it. I think the players, they reacted very well and the way we did, we started doing in that moment, I think we are still being very demanding and keeping it.”

City boss Pep Guardiola was full of praise for Villa’s performance but admitted he needed to change the dynamic of his own side, now winless in four league outings as they lose ground in their title defence.

The absence of Rodri and Jack Grealish through suspension, plus the loss of Jeremy Doku to injury, limited Guardiola’s options and they lost the midfield battle.

“In the first half, we struggled to follow what we spoke (about),” Guardiola said. “We adjusted something at half-time and it was much better and the team had a better dynamic but we didn’t find the players to make the assist or cross or pass.”

“We didn’t have the feeling that we are going to do something and we missed it…We have to accept it when a team is better and recognise it.

“We have to change the dynamic on Sunday at Luton.”

Related items

  • Pep Guardiola hoping Jack Grealish can seize chance to make late-season impact Pep Guardiola hoping Jack Grealish can seize chance to make late-season impact

    Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has urged Jack Grealish to seize an opportunity to finish the season strongly.

    The England midfielder has so far this term been unable to reproduce the influential form he played in last year’s treble success.

    The 28-year-old’s campaign has twice been interrupted by injury and there was also an unsettling off-field incident when his house was burgled while members of his family and girlfriend were in the property.

    His latest setback came when he suffered a groin injury during City’s Champions League game at FC Copenhagen earlier this month but, after a speedy recovery, he was an unused substitute at Bournemouth on Saturday.

    He could come back into the reckoning for Tuesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Luton and Guardiola hopes he can make the most of it.

    Guardiola said: “He started a bit late but (in) the last month Jack is back in terms of many things.

    “That’s why he played an important game in the Champions League in Copenhagen. Unfortunately there was a setback after 10-15 minutes but he’s recovered quick and he is back.

    “Hopefully (he can have) the impact he had last season. It depends on him.

    “I try to be fair with my decisions. If he played a lot of minutes last season and this season a little bit less in the beginning, he is the same player. It’s the same manager, the same way we want to play. Nothing has changed.

    “It is just how how we perform, that is the difference. We need him. I’ve said from day one we need him. He has a special quality for our team. Hopefully he can do a good last three months.”

    With other players in good form, however, Guardiola admits Grealish will have to hit the ground running when the chance arises.

    Grealish must compete with the likes of Phil Foden, Jeremy Doku, Julian Alvarez and Bernardo Silva, all of whom have been in better form this season, for a place.

    Guardiola said: “I cannot give three or four games in a row in order to get the rhythm.

    “They have to take a rhythm to play 20 minutes, 90 minutes, in the high level. You cannot wait.

    “I’m going to give you three or four (games) for you be fit and the other 10 players don’t play?

    “They don’t deserve the same? Of course they deserve it but that’s not how it works.

    “You have to see in the training session, every moment all details.

    “He’s the same lovely person, lovely guy, same qualities, skills. He has even more years to improve.

    “So the players don’t have to convince me. They have to convince themselves that they deserve to play.”

  • Oscar Bobb extends deal at Manchester City until 2029 Oscar Bobb extends deal at Manchester City until 2029

    Manchester City winger Oscar Bobb has extended his contract with the club until 2029.

    The Norway international, 20, has made 16 appearances so far this season, scoring twice – including the last-minute winner in the 3-2 victory at Newcastle last month.

    “I am very proud and honoured to have signed my new contract with City,” said Bobb, whose previous deal was set to expire in 2026.

    “It is an incredible environment and the best possible place to be for a young player.

    “I have already learnt so much from (manager) Pep (Guardiola), his coaching staff and my team-mates. To know I am going to be here at the club until 2029 means everything to me.

    “Now I just want to focus on continuing to further my development and to work as hard as I can every day to try and help the club achieve more success.”

    City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain feels there is plenty more to come from Bobb, whose first senior goal came on his full Champions League debut against Red Star Belgrade in December.

    “Oscar is blessed with superb natural talent and technique and has already established himself as a very important member of the squad,” Begiristain said on the club’s website.

    “He is an exciting young player who is always hungry to learn and who takes on board all the advice and guidance Pep and the coaching staff provide him with.

    “We have been delighted to watch his progression from our academy through to the first team and to see his fantastic ability, attitude and application continue to prosper.

    “Oscar is developing all the time, and we believe he can help to bring even more success to the club in the coming years.”

  • Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board

    Bayern Munich have confirmed the appointment of former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to the club’s board.

    The 50-year-old – who came through the Bayern youth ranks and made one senior appearance – will start his new role with the Bundesliga champions on March 1 and has signed a contract until June 2027.

    Former Germany Under-21 defender Eberl went on to have spells at Bochum and Greuther Furth before signing with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he later moved into coaching and then became director of sport.

    Eberl moved to a similar position at RB Leipzig in December 2022, but was relieved of his duties at the club just nine months later.

    “I spent my entire childhood and youth at FC Bayern and in Munich, so it’s something special for me to return in a new role to the club where it all began,” Eberl said on the Bayern Munich website.

    “The job as board member for sport is a great challenge, which I will approach with a lot of respect and humility, but with even more anticipation.

    “Together with everyone here, I want to do everything I can to ensure that FC Bayern continues to be successful in the future and brings joy to its fans.”

    Bayern announced the club’s executive board would consist of three positions from July 1 – a chief executive, a chief financial and sales officer as well as a board member for sport, which will be Eberl’s role.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.