Unai Emery has transformed Villa Park into a fortress

JOE BERNSTEIN: Unai Emery’s Midas touch has helped transform Villa Park into a fortress, with Aston Villa boasting one of the best home records in the Premier League – but the Spaniard isn’t resting on his laurels as they face stern test against West Ham

  • Unai Emery will celebrate his first anniversary as the Aston Villa boss this week 
  • He has transformed the club into one of the toughest sides to beat at home  
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

Perhaps Unai Emery’s greatest achievement as he celebrates his first anniversary as Aston Villa manager is turning Villa Park into a proper fortress in an era where consistency at home is statistically more difficult than ever.

Emery, appointed on October 24 last year, will seek Villa’s 11th Premier League home win in a row against West Ham Sunday. To put that run into context, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool were the only other clubs to also win their first three this season.

Should Villa achieve another three points, it would represent their best home run since 13-in-a-row in 1983 when they were reigning European champions.

Emery’s Midas touch is made more impressive by the rut the Midlands side found themselves in under his predecessor, Steven Gerrard. Before this spurt of home successes, Villa had taken 30 matches to win 10 – and lost 13 of them.

There are a few reasons behind the great Villa Park transformation. Emery has been clever to capitalise on the fervent and re-energised support. His team go for the kill from the opening whistle at home. 

Unai Emery will celebrate his first anniversary as Aston Villa manager this week

Since joining the club, he has helped turn Villa Park into a fortress, with the side now boasting one of the best records at home in the Premier League

The Villans have now won all ten of their previous home matches and come up against West Ham on Sunday

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In three of the games, Villa have led inside the opening 10 minutes, and on six occasions they have scored by the midway point of the first half. Only twice have they reached the interval still scoreless.

Aston Villa’s Premier League home record 

Aston Villa currently boast an excellent home record in the Premier League. 

Since their 4-2 defeat by Arsenal in February, Emery’s side have played 18 matches, won 10 drawn none and lost none. 

Mail Sport has compared Aston Villa’s winning streak at home to other clubs around the league. 


Man City 14


Liverpool 4

Tottenham 3

Newcastle 3

Arsenal 1

Everton 1

Fulham 1

Man Utd 1

Brentford 1

Brighton 0

Bournemouth 0

Burnley 0

Chelsea 0

Crystal Palace 0

Luton 0

Nottingham Forest 0

Sheff Utd 0

West Ham 0

Wolves 0

The rotation of the Gerrard era – with Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings often fighting for one spot – has gone.

Five key players have started all 10 of Villa’s victories; World Cup-winning goalkeeper Emi Martinez, influential central defender Ezri Konsa, the midfield axis of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz, and striker Watkins, whose good form has been rewarded with a recall to the England team, scoring the winner against Australia during the recent international break.

Watkins is top scorer from the last 10 home matches, hitting seven including a hat-trick against Brighton last time out. But he’s not the only source of firepower. Luiz, nominally a holding midfield player, has scored six and young homegrown talent, Jacob Ramsey four.

So, is Emery satisfied having also taken Villa back into Europe in his first 12 months? It appears not with the Spaniard demanding the highest standards befitting a manager who has won the Europa League four times with Sevilla and Villarreal, and collected seven trophies in his two seasons at PSG.

‘The Premier League is really tough and you have to be demanding,’ he insists. ‘The object is to build a strong mentality. We have very good players and you have to be competitive with them.

‘Ollie Watkins has just scored for England but it’s not enough for me. The challenge for him is Sunday. He needs to show us his prowess and consistency.

‘We are very happy with him, but I’ll be very demanding. On Sunday, I will want the performance we need from him. I chat with him individually, and collectively.’

One of Emery’s reasons for tough love is the awareness that West Ham are capable of wrecking the Villa Park love-in at Sunday afternoon’s claret-and-blue derby.

David Moyes’ successes have mirrored what Emery has done at Villa and they won the European Conference last season – their first major trophy since 1980.

Emery has also noted the much-touted loss of Declan Rice to Arsenal hasn’t had any negative impact on The Hammers.

‘As a team, they are making one step ahead,’ he assesses. ‘They were always good defensively but we’ve analysed their last matches against Liverpool, Newcastle and Freiburg and they played really well in possession.

David Moyes’ side will present a tough test for Villa, who currently sit sixth in the Premier League table

Despite their flying form, Emery admitted that he is demanding more from his players

‘Edson Alvarez is playing in the role of Declan Rice and doing very well. I was impressed how Ajax played with him and I was told he was a very good player.’

‘This year, they are trying to get into a top 10 position and I think they can maybe be in the top six. That is the reason this game it is very important.’

If Emery was regarded as a figure of fun towards the end of his time at Arsenal, he is revered by the Holte End where Villa’s staunchest fans congregate.

He would like to give them an anniversary present. ‘The first year has gone very fast. I am enjoying it but also staying very focussed for each moment we’re facing,’ he added.

‘What I can enjoy is waking up on Monday if we’ve won and seeing the league position we are in. Like a family, we are grateful to the fans and proud to be representing our club.’


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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