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First Team

Media View: Expert insight on Aston Villa

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to maintain their impressive recent form when they host Premier League counterparts Aston Villa on Sunday (2pm kick-off).

Marcus Tavernier’s double and Justin Kluivert’s first goal in the English top flight earned the Cherries a 3-1 win at Sheffield United on Saturday, their third league victory in four games.

Aston Villa climbed to fourth place in the table following their 2-1 triumph at Tottenham last Sunday with Pau Torres and Ollie Watkins on target for the visitors.

Unai Emery’s team arrive at Vitality Stadium fresh from hosting Legia Warsaw in the Europa Conference League on Thursday, the Villans having qualified after finishing seventh last season.

Since losing 5-1 at Newcastle on the opening day of the season, Villa have won nine and drawn one of their 12 games in the Premier League.

They have won all six home games – Everton (4-0), Crystal Palace (3-1), Brighton (6-1), West Ham (4-1), Luton (3-1) and Fulham (3-1) – as well as triumphing on the road against Burnley (3-1), Chelsea (1-0) and Tottenham (2-1).

Ahead of Sunday’s clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Jacob Tanswell who covers the fortunes of Villa for The Athletic.

ASTON VILLA PROFILE

Founded: 1874

Ground: Villa Park

Nicknames: The Villa, The Villans

Record appearances: Charlie Aitken – 660 games (1961-1975)

Record goalscorer: Billy Walker – 244 goals in 531 games

Head coach: Unai Emery (appointed October 2022)

Captain: John McGinn (pictured below).

League position: Fourth

Leading goalscorer: Ollie Watkins (12 in all competitions)

Last game: Aston Villa 2 Legia Warsaw 1 (Europa Conference League)

afcb.co.uk: Summarise the season so far for Villa?

JT: It’s just been really efficient. They are fourth in the league, they are so clinical up top and everything is going in their favour.

They had injuries at the start of the season which I don’t think were covered enough. All their left side were injured.

Tyrone Mings is out for the season and Àlex Moreno and Jacob Ramsey have both been injured.

Unai Emery has found a way of adapting and they have become a winning machine.

They are so good at home and have 13 straight wins in the Premier League at Villa Park, stretching back into last season.

As everyone saw against Tottenham, they are improving their away form as well so it’s been really, really efficient.

afcb.co.uk: How would you describe Unai Emery’s first year at the helm?

JT: It’s been sensational. Only Manchester City have picked up more points and they have 22 wins in the calendar year.

It’s been just over a year since he took charge so this isn’t a flash in the pan, this is sustained form and top-four form.

They have gone from being relegation candidates when he was appointed to a team with a really good chance of breaking into the top five, certainly from supporters’ perspective and those watching on from outside.

Emery has elevated the levels and expectations at Villa Park. 

afcb.co.uk: The most effective offside trap in Europe – tell us about that?

JT: It’s remarkable. They have won more offsides than any other team in Europe by a long way.

Tyrone Mings has played 25 minutes since May and yet is still second in terms of winning offsides out of any centre-back in the league. He’s only behind Ezri Konsa who is Villa’s first-choice centre-back.

They play an extraordinarily high line at certain points. When they see a team about to play long, they all step up at the same time.

It’s so precarious and risky but they seem to get it right all the time.

Son scored the most predictable offside hat-trick you have ever seen for Spurs on Sunday.

They just keep catching teams offside. Goalkeeper Emi Martinez (pictured below) sweeps up behind them and it’s so difficult for teams to stay onside and time their runs.

When you see it, it’s a pretty eye-catching thing.

afcb.co.uk: Champions League – can Villa fans dare to dream?

JT: Yes, for sure.

When you look at what’s happening with the rules changes, fifth place might qualify for a Champions League spot and Villa are well in the hunt.

Emery has always been quite reluctant to say they are top-four hopefuls and has always mentioned that there are seven other clubs ahead of them with his dream to crack the top seven.

But I think, deep down, he knows with the run they are on and with Chelsea and Manchester United faltering, there is a huge opportunity for them to break into the top four or five.

They are playing in Europe this season and are managing it so well. It’s important they get to January, they recover and they might bolster as well.

When you’ve got a record like Emery has over the past year, for sure they can be top-four candidates and top-four hopefuls.

afcb.co.uk: Which player has stood out for you this season?

JT: Douglas Luiz (pictured above).

There have been a lot of honourable mentions – John McGinn, Ollie Watkins, Ezri Konsa and Moussa Diaby – but Luiz is the heartbeat of the team, in and out of possession.

He’s the all-round midfielder. You can’t label him as a defensive midfielder or as a number eight or number ten. He does everything.

He’s their second-highest goalscorer and there was a run earlier this season where he contributed to goals in seven games on the trot.

He’s Emery’s leader in midfield and he’s been outstanding. He’s been attracting a lot of interest from clubs in England and the rest of Europe.

afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

JT: Boubacar Kamara is suspended after picking up his fifth booking against Spurs. Fortunately for Villa, the injury woes are easing.

Ramsey returned to the bench against Spurs and is probably pushing for a start and it’s the same with Moreno.

Moreno played 79 minutes against Legia Warsaw and scored, while Ramsey came on for the final 19 minutes.

Nicolo Zaniolo picked up an injury on international duty but he returned on Thursday.

Ollie Watkins sat out against Legia Warsaw after sustaining a minor injury in training. I think he'll be okay though.

The long-standing injuries are Mings (pictured above) and Emi Buendía who are both out for the rest of the season. 

afcb.co.uk: Having covered both teams, how do you see this one panning out and what’s your score prediction? 

JT: It’s going to be such an exciting game.

The Villa offside trap is going to cause havoc and there could be a few offside goals.

Bournemouth have picked up recently and are an exciting team to watch as well.

I think there will definitely be goals in it. Both teams can be quite leaky at the back so I’m going for a 2-2 draw. 

You can follow Jacob on X (formerly Twitter) – @J_Tanswell

Officials: Thomas Bramall (referee), Neil Davies (assistant), Matthew Wilkes (assistant), James Bell (fourth official), Christopher Kavanagh (VAR).

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