Home → Elite → Football → Performance Analysis Football Wyscout Performance Analysis How Unai Emery turned Aston Villa's Nightmare Start Into a European Dream 15 Jun, 2023 6 Min Read By Edward Stratmann @EdwardStratmann The Spanish manager took over at Villa Park with the club fighting for relegation and led the Villans to an unexpected European qualification. Considering Aston Villa were just three points off the drop zone and languishing when Unai Emery took over in November, the Spaniard deserves enormous credit for turning around their fortunes so emphatically. Implementing his tactical framework so effectively and getting the players on board successfully, their transformation from relegation battlers to qualifying for Europe by virtue of their seventh-placed Premier League finish has been nothing short of remarkable. Finding the formula to revitalize their campaign and to crucially achieve excellent results through their disciplined approach, there's no doubting what a sensational job he's done. What a journey. pic.twitter.com/fKwbU6Yfr0— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) May 28, 2023 Becoming a hugely challenging team to face off against both home and away, the fact they won 12 of their last 20 and 10 of their last 15 matches further underlined what a force to be reckoned with they are. Moreover, another incredible stat arises from how Emery was able to secure an average of 1.96 points per game, which is quite the upswing from Steven Gerrard, who could only muster 0.81 prior to departing. Meticulous, supremely dedicated and relentless in his quest to get the best out of his team, improving their defense gave them a strong foundation for success, with Emery's plans immediately bearing fruit. Typically setting his team up in a base 4-4-2/4-2-2-2/4-2-3-1 formation, that often morphs into a 6-2-2 when defending deep, Emery converted the Villans into a dogged and connected stopping outfit. Pressing strategically while protecting the middle, they time and angle their harrying nicely to usher opponents into wide areas, where they shift across to hem them in, use the touchline as an extra defender and use their cover shadows to block passing lanes inside. By minimizing the area available for their foes to use, which is helped by the central midfielders usually locking on to their markers, the defenders getting touchtight and everybody being on the same page, opponents are frequently forced into long balls or high turnovers so Villa can either regain the ball briskly or attack from high vs. spread out backlines. Although they can get exploited in wide areas, Villa have unquestionably proved a tough nut to crack from this centrally compact and organized structure, which saw them concede the sixth least shots in the league and sixth lowest goals per 90 (excellent considering their poor start to the season under Gerrard). Wyscout Rankings, Premier League - Shots Against Wyscout Rankings, Premier League - Goals Conceded Meanwhile, when defending deeper in a mid-block, where they engage in pressing their foes nicely as well, or in a low-block, they're equally effective at frustrating and disrupting opponents. Limiting desirable central space, getting their shifting mechanics spot on, so aware of their roles and responsibilities and maintaining vertical and horizontal compactness, opponents have had a hard time making headway. Connected, alert to tracking runners and knowing when to step out if a colleague needs support wide or centrally, all their work on the training ground has paid off handsomely. Extremely challenging to penetrative when in their 6-2-2, where there are hardly any gaps to get at within their last line for runners, this, in combination with how well they populate the box to deal with crosses and have aerial kings like Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and keeper Emiliano Martinez, amplifies what a defensive powerhouse they are. Emery's notably also elevated Villa into a hugely threatening offensive menace, who can hurt opponents in a multiplicity of ways. Eager to invite pressure and play through opponents, their build-up tactics have helped them do just that. Opting to position the center-backs deep near the keeper with the two holding midfielders ahead of them while the full-backs stay deep, this platform succeeds in luring out foes so they can then shrewdly breach the first lines of pressure. Giving them many options and opening passing lanes to the attackers, they can either go direct or progress via third-man combinations and slick interplay to beat the press. Forming a box or diamond-like shapes, ensures passing angles are plentiful, which is also helped by their staggering to be on different lines. As they move up the pitch, how the nominal wingers invert has been crucial, as they not only cause dilemmas for markers in regard to who should track them, but they also find coveted spaces between the lines and in the half-spaces. Moreover, their infield edging also means they can be in close proximity to the forwards to exchange passes rapidly to help draw out defenders and unlock backlines. Some other upsides attached to this setup come from how the forwards pin and occupy defenders to manufacture room for their partners in crime and how they can seamlessly rotate positions to compound issues for their opponents. The fact they turned the ball over the fourth least times indicated how smoothly Emery implemented his strategy and how he picked the right players to execute his plans. Wyscout Rankings, Premier League - Ball Losses The tucked-in wingers also return the space conjuring favors for the forwards by dropping deep to clear the way for the strikers to hit the channels. It also warrants mentioning how beneficial their connected front unit is for their counter-pressing once they lose possession, for their attacking quartet is ideally situated to reclaim the ball to instantly launch attacks. Never afraid to go long and direct, their attackers being near to one another helps them win second balls in advanced areas by outnumbering foes as well. The impact of star striker Ollie Watkins is huge for them too, for the speedy 27-year-old is an asset with his finishing, capacity to break in behind, receive between the lines and instinctively get free inside the box. Ollie Watkins' Shot Map - Wyscout Player Report Ollie Watkins' Heat Map Blessed with a tidy array of attackers with different profiles, such as Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey, John McGinn, Jacob Ramsey and obviously Watkins, Emery's system has definitely been a recipe for success. Balanced and all on the same page, a further testament to Emery smoothly instilling his philosophy arises from how when one full-back or central midfielder marauds forward, the other will stay back to maintain structural security in case of a turnover. By the numbers to accentuate their threat, it's also worth noting that they ranked first for fouls suffered, equal fourth for dribbling success and eighth for dribbles p90. Wyscout Rankings, Premier League - Fouls Suffered Wyscout Rankings, Premier League - Dribbles and Dribbles Success % Propelling Villa to great heights against the odds, Emery has certainly vindicated Villa's decision to bring him in, for he's hardly put a foot wrong. Impossible to ignore and displaying what a superb manager he is, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insightfully stated how highly he rates him, saying: "Unai Emery is a fantastic coach. He always has been, everywhere he's been. Wherever he's been, he's had success. I have no doubts he'll do the same here. Aston Villa is a huge club. They are playing very well, they defend well and they do lots of other things well. I respect him a lot, and I've not been surprised by how well he's doing." Back in Europe for the first time since 2010 courtesy of his managerial mastery, this is a fine reward for all his and the players' exceptional work. “I’m very proud of our work, our supporters, the club, everybody that works here,” Emery explained. “It’s important because we’re going to be one step ahead in our objective to be in Europe. To play in the Conference League is very important. We’re adding the possibility of another trophy because it’s very difficult in the Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup. Our objective and ambitions will be to try and always be a candidate to get a trophy." Set to only get better with a full pre-season and with time to strengthen their squad, all the signs are positive that Villa can keep up their upward trajectory under the tactically sophisticated Spaniard. The exciting times ahead at Villa look to keep on rolling, which is a far cry from the start of their season prior to Emery's arrival when negativity was reigning supreme. And for that, the 51-year-old deserves all the credit he gets, for who knows how the campaign would've gone without him. If you want to learn more about Wyscout Data & API, get in touch!Start your 15-day Wyscout free trial now.Follow Edward on Twitter.