Emery and Monchi can push Aston Villa to Sevilla-like dominance and challenge Premier League elite
Everyone and everything seems to be perfectly suited at Aston Villa: the players to each other; Emery to the players; Emery to Aston Villa; Emery to Monchi; the players, Emery, Monchi and Villa to the Europa Conference League.
“I can’t wait to work with Unai Emery again, one of the best managers in football,” said Monchi on being announced as Aston Villa’s new President of Football Operations, a move that has predictably flown under a radar that pings with Big Seven transfer nonsense but should cause the Premier League elite to sit up and take note of a club that’s making all the right moves to join them.
Monchi took up his first directorship in 2000 when Sevilla appointed him as director of football after they had been relegated from the top flight. Tasked with developing the club’s youth system and implementing a vast scouting policy inside and outside Spain, in his 20 years across two spells with Sevilla, he’s helped discover Alberto Moreno, Jesus Navas, Sergio Ramos, Jose Antonio Reyes and Bryan Gil while making huge profits after sourcing bargains through the network of 700 scouts he created.
Adriano, Dani Alves, Julio Baptista, Seydou Keita and Ivan Rakitic are among the players he’s bought for pennies and sold for millions, while more recent successes include Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos, with whom he’ll reunite at Villa Park.
On Monchi’s watch, Sevilla have become European giants, winning a continental trophy in seven of his 20 seasons at the club, three of those with Emery as manager. Villa have acquired quite the pair to lead them into what could be their own era of European dominance.
Because why not? They’ve got the same manager, the same director and those Sevilla teams weren’t much better than this current Villa side…worse in some cases.
Villa have the World Cup-winning goalkeeper, a striker the majority of the far bigger clubs currently scrambling around for a goalscorer would take in a heartbeat, one of the brightest young English talents in Jacob Ramsey among an excellent group of midfielders, now joined by Youri Tielemans, and a defence that conceded just 26 goals in 25 games in the Premier League under Emery last season.
And unlike Brighton, who could easily be challenging for the Champions League next season if the Premier League big boys would leave them alone, Villa head into the transfer market looking to add to their squad rather than replace key members.
Rumours of interest in Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Martinez and Ramsey are conspicuous by their absence. Villa don’t need to sell, so won’t. And the players appear to be on board, absolutely aware of what could be about to happen both domestically and in Europe if they stick around.
The club is now perhaps more attractive than it’s ever been in the Premier League era for prospective new players, who will be playing in Europe under a serial winner of European competitions. While methods of persuasion under Gerrard would have been limited to ‘look how good I was at football’, Emery can simply point to his CV, though he would undoubtedly have reels of video analysis of potential new acquisitions to explain how he would turn them into better players and how they would fit into his system. You know, like an actual football manager.
They’re shopping at a different level as a result. There’s no chance Pau Torres or Jadon Sancho would be linked with a move to Villa Park without Emery at the helm.
Trips to Villa Park that have frequently been hollow, sometimes unpleasant experiences, are now a joy, with the fans more-than-willing accomplices in what has been an incredible turnaround since Steven Gerrard was shown the door.
Villa were 17th with nine points from 11 games when Gerrard was sacked and finished seventh on 61. Had the Premier League started when Emery joined, Villa would have finished fifth, above Brighton and Newcastle. And it was results like their 3-0 win over Newcastle that suggest this is going to be more than a flash in the pan with the talent of the players able to shine through in Emery’s typically fine-tuned tactical system.
Everyone and everything seems to be perfectly suited: the players to each other; Emery to the players; Emery to Aston Villa; Emery to Monchi; the players, Emery, Monchi and Villa to the Europa Conference League.
Let’s not disparage the achievement of West Ham – if you didn’t enjoy David Moyes and Declan Rice celebrating their trophy win then we really cannot be friends – but their path to the final wasn’t hugely taxing, and Villa will be one of the favourites to go all the way this season, because of their relative resources and their manager. Both are better than West Ham and Moyes.
And although the Hammers may well drift away from European competition after a dalliance in the Europa League this term, Villa’s opening European gambit feels as though it will be the first rung on a ladder that could lead to far greater things, or at least consistently good things, under a manager and director who are thick as thieves, with talented players on board and on their way.