By ITV News Central's Sports Correspondent Dan Salisbury-Jones
When new Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery was last in the Premier League, he became a figure of fun.His familiar “good evening” phrase in a heavy accent became a meme for the then-Arsenal boss’s failure. This was unfair, not least because he speaks five different languages.But that ridicule would’ve hurt anyone’s confidence. Emery has rebuilt it in style at Villarreal, beating Manchester United in the 2021 Europa League final and reaching the Champions League semi-finals last season. He’s now won nine major trophies in the last nine years. You don’t need me to remind you Villa haven’t won anything since 1996.Arsenal’s Emery experiment went wrong but he will return to the Premier League vastly more experienced than the last time.
He will also bring an identity, something so many accused Steven Gerrard of failing to provide.If his tactics at Villarreal are anything to go by, Villa will likely have a more patient possession game. Fans will probably be tested watching Villa’s defenders pass it around the back for longer periods than they’re used to. Famously, he said he’d “rather win 5-4 than 1-0” at Arsenal. Sadly, for him he couldn’t win enough in the first place at the Emirates.This is undoubtedly a risk from the chief executive Christian Purslow but, as Wolves have shown, there are very few top managers available and he has at least been decisive.
And on the language, perhaps this is the job Emery always really wanted. When he joined Arsenal he said he watched Peaky Blinders to learn English.
Five facts about Emery:
Emery is Basque - a region that straddles the western Pyrenees in adjacent parts of northern Spain and south-western France.
He's won the Europa League four times.
Football runs in his family - his father and grandfather played professional football.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing padel - a racket sport typically played in doubles on an enclosed court roughly one-third the size of a tennis court.
When he joined Arsenal he said he watched Peaky Blinders to learn English!