Aston Villa: Will Emery oust big names next season?

Mike Taylor, BBC Radio World Cup

The problem with games against today’s elite teams, like Manchester City in this generation of the Premier League, is that when the game follows the expected script, it’s difficult to gauge performance.

One could argue, as some who have addressed BBC Radio WM this week, that Villa “won the second half” and there is always credit to go to the finish.

They’re also in good shape overall since Unai Emery took the job. But last Sunday’s competition ended at half-time, always leaving an unspoken fear that the big names might just be going through the motions and saving energy for bigger tests. Seeing your site patronized is almost worse than seeing it beaten up.

However, if you have been at this level yourself and are striving to return there, you may be less inclined to be generous.

“The first half was the worst performance we’ve had in the games we’ve played,” Emery said. “In the second half we tried to forget the result and get on with our work… we played better and scored a goal. But they deserved the win and we have to take a lot of information from this game and use it.”

If any of Villa’s players let their minds wander after their recent rise from troubles into the relatively calm waters of midfield, Emery’s last sentence should make them sit up and take notice. Villa’s relatively modest spending in January, leaving some areas of their squad thin, has fueled expectations of significant spending in the summer given the financial strength of the owners. No doubt they would have assured Emery of their intentions before convincing him to join them.

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It follows that at least some of the regular starters can no longer rely on this status in the next season. Being ten points down on the last three with sixteen games left is no guarantee, but Villa really should have enough on their hands now to be safe. However, Emery’s tone on Sunday suggested he doesn’t mind anyone feeling comfortable over the next few months. He works hard on his English when interviewed and is far too polite to put it bluntly; but it feels like Emery has set his style and standards and won’t budge unless his current players can’t keep up with them. If they don’t, chances are he has the means to find someone who can.

*Villa v Arsenal, Commentary on BBC Radio WM (DAB/Freeview), Saturday 12:30 GMT

*BBC Radio WM Football Phone-In, all WM frequencies and BBC Sounds, weekdays 18:00 GMT

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