After what was an impressive campaign last season to secure Europa Conference League soccer, Aston Villa is showing signs that their efforts last term were no fluke.
Experienced head coach Unai Emery has been a revelation since he walked through the doors at Villa Park, and now there are suggestions the West Midlands outfit could do something special this season.
Some Year For Emery
Appointed as the new Aston Villa boss on October 24th, 2022, Emery enjoyed a superb first year in his role at the club. From a side that was struggling under his predecessor, Steve Gerrard, in a relegation dogfight, football bets have Villa at +300 to finish in the top four this season. While Villa is unlikely to beat -225 favorites in the Premier League title odds Manchester City to the English crown this term, the Villans are contenders to finish in the top four and reach the Champions League.
Villa has a rich history with the club boasting a European Cup to its name. However, that came back in 1982, and their more recent history has lacked any action in the Champions League. After years of mixed fortunes in the Premier League and even dropping down to the Championship at one stage, the good times have started to return to Villa Park. Emery has played a massive role in that, and the Spaniard has proven, after a somewhat disappointing spell at Arsenal, that he is more than capable of shining in the English top flight.
Watkins Holds The Key To Top-Four Success
England international Ollie Watkins is one of the players who have benefited most since Emery took charge at Villa Park. The 27-year-old adapted quickly to life under the former Paris Saint-Germain boss and has been reaping the benefits since. After a strong campaign last term, Watkins has been massively influential for Villa this season, with six goals and five assists in his first 12 appearances. If the former Brentford star is able to continue at that rate, it will go a long way in helping Villa achieve the goal of securing Champions League football for next season.
Watkins has a strong supporting cast, with skipper John McGinn another talisman who has a big role to play this season. The Scotland midfielder has previously caught the attention of some of the bigger names in the Premier League, but Villa has done well to retain his services. A combative figure in the middle of the park but also able to contribute goals and assists, McGinn has already shown signs he has a big year ahead of both club and country. Fellow midfielder Douglas Luiz is another player who has attracted interest as he continues to shine with his performances at Villa Park. The Brazilian has formed a great partnership with McGinn, and much will be expected of the South American between now and the end of the campaign.
Villa have been happy to go under the radar for much of the campaign so far, but if they can stay consistent, it won’t be long before the talk grows about a potential journey in the Champions League next season.