From taking just 12 points from their opening 13 Premier League games to securing European football on the final day of the season, Unai Emery’s remarkable transformation of Aston Villa is complete.
The Spaniard officially took charge at Villa Park the day after a humbling 4-0 defeat at high-flying Newcastle left the Villains just three points clear of bottom club Nottingham Forest.
The opening 11 minutes of the Emery reign was very much a sign of things to come as goals from Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne helped Villa race into an early 2-0 lead at home to Manchester United. Goals at both ends from Jacob Ramsey saw Emery begin with a comfortable three points against Erik ten Hag’s side.
Next up, a first away victory of the season was secured as Emery’s impressive start continued with a 2-1 win at Brighton.
"They're in at 7am and home at 7pm. In those 12 hours it's a mixture of preparation, coaching work and attention to detail that nobody at the club has ever seen before."@BumperGraham outlines the impact Unai Emery & his coaching staff have had at Bodymoor Heath.#AVFC pic.twitter.com/DUQf0TfaQk— bet365 (@bet365) April 1, 2023
Villa's response to a narrow loss to Liverpool in their first game after the World Cup was a four-match unbeaten run that includes wins over Tottenham, Leeds and Southampton.
Three straight defeats at the start of February could have easily resulted in Villa ending the season satisfied with a mid-table finish and attention turning to next season. It was the complete opposite however as Emery’s side embarked on a hugely impressive 10-match unbeaten run that included a magnificent display in a 3-0 victory at home to Champions League chasing Newcastle.
The pressure was on heading into the final few games of the season as a seventh placed finish was enough to qualify for the Europa Conference League.
A 2-1 win at home to Tottenham was vital in their quest for Europe, and despite conceding a late equaliser at Liverpool – four points from those two games set up their final game perfectly.
Tasked with needing a victory at home to Brighton to make it mission complete, early goals from Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins eased any final day nerves and it was time to celebrate at Villa Park.
Despite gaining a wealth of experience from across Europe, the job Emery has done at in such a short space of time cannot be underestimated. To have Aston Villa fans dusting off their passports for the first time since 2010 is a magnificent achievement.