Villa have wasted little time identifying a replacement for sacked boss Steven Gerrard, raiding Villarreal for their Head Coach, Unai Emery.
In a deal widely reported to have cost Villa somewhere in the region of €6-7 million Euro in compensation, the 50-year-old Spaniard will formally join the club on the 1st of November.
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The last week or so could be considered typical of the range of emotions experienced whilst following Aston Villa.
The painful stalling of the clubs re-birth during the last 11 month have come at a price, with both Dean Smith and Gerrard failing to match Christian Purslow’s expectation of “continuous improvement”.
The jaw-dropping nature of a 3-0 defeat at Fulham marked a low few could have anticipated but was countered by an equally remarkable 4-0 victory over Brentford a mere matter of days later. Emery will be charged with getting the club firmly back on the upward trajectory that reflects the significant investment from the owners to date.
The former Arsenal, Sevilla and PSG coach won’t have long to wait before his first big test. Manchester United’s visit to Villa Park on the 6th of November will serve as a perfect high-profile debut. Aaron Danks will continue in the role of caretaker until Emery’s work permit formalities have completed on or before the beginning of next month.
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The Villa Underground pondered the menu of candidates in recent days and it must be said that Unai Emery does appear both a rational and ambitious appointment.
It was far from straightforward, with the club never having foreseen quite how badly the Steven Gerrard experiment would flop, they found themselves scrambling for a competent replacement.
Names like Poch and Tuchel were too lofty, with those candidates amongst the elite of the modern game and able to bide their time for Champions League roles that will no doubt appear in due course.
There was also the risk of a dangerous re-bound appointment. Sean Dyche, though lazily panned by some, did manage a 7th placed finish with Burnley. However, it raised reasonable questions about what direction the club wanted in both playing style and entertainment value.
The promising Ruben Amorim likely fell into a similar category. A rising star of European management with Portuguese champions Sporting, he would have been a costly appointment, no doubt popular, but with incredible risk as an unknown in the Premier League.
It would be remiss to overlook the obvious. Emery struggled in the shadow of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and therefore must consider his return to England as an opportunity to address unfinished business. An eleven-game winning streak at The Emirates stood in contrast to a winless run not seen since the early 90’s that would cost him his job.
His CV is certainly impressive though, with a trio of Europe League wins with Sevilla as well as domestic honours with PSG. Villarreal will also surely miss a man who delivered them a Europa League trophy as well as a semi-final in The Champions League.
For Villa supporters, the notion of any trophy is alluring, but we are realists too. We are a little way off European ambitions, but with the right management of the players acquired, there might be some low-hanging fruit to be seized upon courtesy of domestic cups in the first instance.
Again, this perhaps gets ahead of ourselves for now, but Emery arrives with a 900-game strong win ratio only bettered by two previous Aston Villa managers.
The cliches write themselves at this point. It’s a new dawn, a new beginning etc.
We look forward to welcoming Emery, but first we must negotiate an in-form Newcastle this weekend and improve the season’s outlook ahead of his arrival.