Unai Emery steers Aston Villa to first UEFA Champions League campaign in 41 years

Radio Univers
Radio Univers
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Aston Villa for the first time in 41 years have booked a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League after Spurs’ defeat to Manchester City at the Tottenham Stadium on Tuesday night.

Founded in 1864 (150 years ago), the Villans have been crowned English Premier League and FA Cup Champions seven times, EFL Cup winners 5 times, European Cup champions once (1982), and European Super Cup winners also in 1982.

Recent years have witnessed Villa’s inability to get results and secure a place in UEFA’s club competitions, until the appointment of Spanish gaffer, Unai Emery.

Aston Villa before the appointment of the Spaniard on 24th October, 2022, had managed to secure only two wins in their last 11 games under previous manager, Steven Gerard, and were sitting 16th on the league log with just a point richer than the relegation zoned sides.

Unai Emery turned things around quickly with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Manchester United, which incidentally was Villa’s first home victory over United since August 1995.

The 2022/23 season with Emery had eyebrows raised on his side’s performance, as they managed 15 wins out of their 25 league games and amassed 49 from a possible 75 points.

This saw Aston Villa secure a 7th-placed finish and in turn secure qualification into the UEFA Conference League, the club’s first participation in European football since the 2010/11 season, making it Emery’s sixteenth consecutive season of European football as manager.

Numerous Sports enthusiasts praised Emery’s transformation of Villa in such a short space of time, and was nominated for the Premier League Manager of the Season Award. The recipient of the award, Pep Guardiola,
acknowledged Emery in his acceptance speech, along with the other nominees for each’s “incredible job this season”.

The summer of 2023 also saw major changes in Aston Villa’s infrastructure as Sevilla’s sporting director Monchi, who had previously worked with Emery, was appointed as President of Football Operations, as well as Damian Vidagany as Director of Football Operations.

Aston Villa signed Pau Torres from Villareal for a reported £33m, and Moussa Diaby from Bayern Leverkusen for an undisclosed fee, with many outlets reporting the fee to be in excess of £50m and shattering Villa’s previous transfer record.

The new season commenced with a defeat as they were thumped by Newcastle 5-1 at St James’ Park. Emery lead Villa to their highest Premier League points total after 19 games, the seasons midpoint.

His side maintained a 100% record in their first eight games of the season at home for the first time since the 1932/33 season, and a 1–0 victory against Arsenal on 9 December resulted in their fifteenth consecutive home league win, started back on 4 March, for the first time in the club’s 149-year history.

Aston Villa also won five of seven games in December 2023, including back-to-back wins against Manchester City and Arsenal, which led to Emery being named Premier League Manager of the Month for the second time in his career.

A heated encounter with Ajax awaited them in the round of 16 of the UEFA Conference League, but they managed to prevail with a 4-0 aggregate score, kicking out Lille in the quarter-finals to reach their first European Semi-final since 1982 in the process.

Just as he did with Sevilla and Villareal, Unai Emery has written his name in gold in the history books as he guides the Villans to UEFA Champions League football with a fourth-placed finish in the English Premier League’s 2023/24 season — first since 1983.


Story by: Augustine Quansah| univers.ug.edu.gh

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