Unai Emery lost his rag after the 4-2 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday

Unai Emery is a man in a hurry but it’s not the defensive errors that are winding him up – his team’s inability to follow his instructions when in possession is why he lost his rag after the 4-2 defeat by Arsenal on Saturday

  • Unai Emery has amassed 11 major trophies in an excellent coaching career so far 
  • Despite a new manager bounce, his side have now lost three games in a row 
  • Re-live the action as it happened in Arsenal’s 4-2 comeback win at Aston Villa 

Unai Emery is a man in a hurry. The Spaniard did not collect 11 major trophies in an excellent coaching career without being fiercely demanding yet he may wonder if he is currently asking too much of his Aston Villa players.

Last Saturday’s home defeat by Arsenal was Villa’s third successive defeat – the first wobble of the Emery regime. The others were at Manchester City (no shame in that) and at home to Leicester. 

After the loss to the Gunners, however, Emery lost his rag – and not only because Emiliano Martinez went rogue by charging forward for a late Villa corner, which ultimately handed Arsenal their decisive fourth goal.

After conceding 11 in three games, you might expect that defensive errors would be irritating Emery the most. Instead, it is his team’s failure to obey his instructions when they have the ball that is really winding him up.

‘We have to be protagonists and play with personality in our style,’ he said. ‘We have to play with ball possession. We are not doing it and we are doing more long balls.

Unai Emery lost his rag after the defeat to Arsenal on Saturday – his side’s this defeat in a row

The Spanish manager criticised Emiliano Martinez’s decision to go forward for a late corner

‘Because when Arsenal had possession, they were progressing with passes and pushing us to defend low and I don’t want to defend low for a long time.

‘Maybe it’s because we were winning 1-0 and we are not taking risks. But football is to play. If a player is in front of you, you have to beat him and have to play with combinations.

‘Mentality is everything. Everything. You have to break lines, go ahead and to break lines… working to do more difficult things.’

Emery’s ambition is admirable but he may do well to remember that since returning to the top flight in 2019, Villa have finished 17th, 11th and 14th. Owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens sacked Steven Gerrard in October because they looked like they were heading for relegation. 

The immediate bounce under Emery has propelled them to 11th but to put it mildly, this is no super team. The 51-year-old was hired because of his ability to improve players but this cannot happen instantly.

It is not easy to play progressive, expansive football with a squad of largely mid-table players, especially against the league leaders. How many of Villa’s squad would genuinely interest the Premier League’s top clubs? Emiliano Martinez and Boubacar Kamara, possibly Jacob Ramsey, Emiliano Buendia and Ollie Watkins. After that, not many.

Emery has used Brighton as an example to his players of how a team can overhaul their style. The Seagulls moved from dour percentage football under Chris Hughton to the enterprising approach of Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi. It took time, though, and there has been plenty of change in personnel since Hughton’s days.

Emery’s dream is have his goalkeeper operating almost as a third centre-back when Villa have the ball, allowing his other central defenders to split and the full-backs to push higher. Wide midfielders can then drift inside to link with those in the middle. Overloads everywhere, and very difficult to stop.

The former Arsenal, Villarreal and PSG boss has amassed 11 trophies in an excellent coaching career

The 51-year-old has plans for Villa moving forward and wants to implement a tactical plan based around creating several overloads

This is the grand plan, but it may have to wait. Emery will be backed heavily in the summer to reshape the squad and perhaps he is trying to make an early start by demanding his ideas are imposed rapidly. 

Whether this is possible with the group of players at his disposal is another matter entirely.

‘I am frustrated with myself because they are not doing the game plan I am working on with them on the training ground,’ added Emery. 

Maybe the answer is simple: the players are falling short of his standards not because they lack courage or discipline. Perhaps they are just not quite good enough.

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