Unai Emery has shed Arsenal ‘laughing stock’ tag with ‘under-rated’ Aston Villa

Steven Chicken
Unai Emery issues instructions from the sidelines
Let's pretend Unai Emery is pointing and laughing at Arsenal here

Jamie Redknapp and Paul Merson believe Aston Villa boss Unai Emery deserves more credit for having come back into English football and proved he is not the ‘laughing stock’ he was treated as at Arsenal.

Emery took over from long-standing Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in summer 2018, but lasted just one full season in the job before being dismissed the following November.

Unai Emery’s Aston Villa efforts ‘under-rated’

The Spaniard returned to his homeland with Villarreal, who he led to Europa League glory  in 2021, before coming back to the Premier League with Aston Villa in November 2022.

Villa’s two-goal victory over Emery’s former club has given them a three-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur in the hunt for fourth place and a guaranteed Champions League place, albeit with Spurs holding a game in hand.

A top-five finish would represent Villa’s best showing in the Premier League since 1996/97, while they also remain in contention for their first European silverware since their 1982 European Cup triumph. (Unless you count the European Super Cup or Intertoto Cup, but come on.)

READ MORE: Arsenal humbled by Aston Villa over 26-minute period which could define their season

Speaking on Sky Sports following Villa’s victory at the Emirates, Merson said: “It’s a phenomenal job the manager and players are doing.

“They’re a good team, they’re under-rated, they’ve got a top-drawer centre-forward, a good top-drawer goalkeeper, and they’ve got good players all over the pitch. They’re a very under-rated football team, Villa.

“They had that little blip in sort of the middle of the season when they couldn’t win a home game, then they had that bad month…if they hadn’t had that bad month they’d be sitting in second today. They lost three or four on the trot or something.

“They’re a good team and hopefully they can get a result in Lille. They’re a really good team. Watkins has improved tenfold since the manager has been here in my opinion, he’s made him a much better player.”

Unai Emery ‘went to Arsenal at the wrong time’

Redknapp said: “The manager deserves so much credit, doesn’t he? He was a bit of a laughing stock [at Arsenal but he’s]… a top manager

Merson nodded: “He came here at the wrong time, following Arsene, but now we know he’s a top manager. He improves players and that’s your job as a manager, to improve players.

“Watkins, you’ve got to be a good player [because] he didn’t get too many chances today. He hits the inside of the post and it spins around the other post, then he scores a brilliant goal – good centre-forward play. He didn’t have 15 chances: two chances, one hits the post, one he scores.”

Redknapp concluded: “He’s a brilliant coach, make no mistake. It’s heart in your mouth for Villa fans at times, but they play out from the back, they’re so brave, they play through the lines…they’ve had an extraordinary team and they’ve had a brilliant season.”