Consecutive wins fire Aston Villa into European contention

Aston Villa supporters are dreaming of European competition for 2022/23 after a pair of early-April victories fired the club into seventh place in the Premier League table.

After leapfrogging Chelsea with a 2-0 win on April 1, Villa toppled relegation-candidates Leicester City, 2-1, through a 90th-minute Bertrand Traore winner on Tuesday evening.

Now with 44 points through 29 matches, Villa are two points off Brighton in sixth and six points off Spurs, who occupy a Champions League spot in fourth place.

Since Nov. 6 — Unai Emery’s first match as Aston Villa manager — the club have picked up more Premier League points (32) than any other club except first-place Arsenal (38). When the Spaniard took charge, Villa were in 16th place with 12 points from 13 matches.

“We’re competing with very big teams and it will be difficult to keep this position but we have possibilities if we keep being competitive and fighting like we are now,” Emery said after the Leicester win.

Aston Villa’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery reacts during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in London on April 1, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“We’re being very demanding every day in training and when we are preparing for matches to try and catch the teams that are in European positions.”

Aston Villa stars in top form

A lot has changed under Emery from a tactical standpoint — Villa are stronger defensively, more comfortable in possession, and dangerous on the counter-attack.

The adjustments he’s made have changed the dynamic of training sessions and instilled a new sense of confidence in the squad’s top players.

Ollie Watkins has 10 goals in 17 games under Emery and — with his goal on Tuesday — has tallies in six straight away matches. His 11 goals this season are tied for eighth in the Premier League.

Douglas Luiz has arguably been Villa’s best player since Emery took over. Paired mostly with Boubacar Kamara in a two-man central midfield pivot, Luiz has become a creative force and has five assists this season.

Kamara has been sterling in front of the Villa back line, and central defender Tyrone Mings is playing some of the best football of his career under Emery. Mings was one of six nominees for Premier League Player of the Month in March, but still failed to earn a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s most recent England squad.

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