After Aston Villa’s 2-0 win over Tottenham on New Year’s Day, Unai Emery will have plenty more reason to be pleased with his players after a top performance.
Goals from Emiliano Buendia and Douglas Luiz secured all three points, as we produced a resolute defensive display and added quality to our attacking play in the second half to come away with a victory.
While it’s fair to say that Tottenham were nowhere near their best, Villa did a brilliant job in containing them, adding to their frustration and eventually making them pay for a lacklustre performance.
Emery was unsurprisingly delighted when giving his assessment after the game, and there were certainly more signs for optimism and positivity moving forward as we now look ahead to facing Wolves on Wednesday night.
Olsen performs well under pressure
Robin Olsen has looked shaky when deputising for Emiliano Martinez, and having conceded 11 goals in three appearances so far this season prior to Sunday, it was a concern to see that our World Cup winner wasn’t ready to come back in to replace the Swede.
From his moments of indecision to his questionable distribution, Olsen would have been feeling the pressure of having to improve his performance, but he did so in this one.
Admittedly, there were still a few occasions where he looked nervy, but his passing was much improved and he was alert when called into action despite his defence doing a great job at limiting the threat that he faced.
Kamara operating at different level
It’s perhaps hard to pick out too many positives from the Steven Gerrard era, but signing Boubacar Kamara will certainly be the main one.
The French midfielder is a joy to watch every week as he influences the game in both phases consistently. From his ability to step in and break the opposition’s play up to making key passes and setting us on our way, he’s a classy operator who is capable of taking us to a different level.
As with every player, he still has room for growth and improvement and we’ll hopefully see that progression continue under Emery. For now though, he is already proving himself to be an elite midfielder who can control games for us.
Kamara-Luiz midfield partnership building
Building on the point above, the partnership that is developing between Kamara and Luiz is a huge positive, as the pair are gelling well and controlling the tempo and possession in games for us.
Kamara’s defensive qualities allow Luiz to play in a more advanced role and be brave with his decision-making to break forward, and we saw that perfectly put into action for our second goal.
After Kamara won possession back in midfield, it set Luiz away who linked up with John McGinn and broke into the box before slotting home our second goal to kill the game. If they continue to improve together, the Villa midfield is in safe hands.
Big boost for Buendia
It was a huge boost to see Buendia get on the scoresheet as he himself conceded not long ago that he has to add more goals and assists to his game.
While the frustration with him from some quarters is understandable to an extent at times, he is primarily the only Villa player who is always looking to be positive in the final third, to make something happen and is willing to take risks.
That often will lead to moves breaking down as he tries to carve open a goalscoring opportunity, but it’s hoped that this goal will now be the confidence boost that he needs to kick on.
Emery’s influence and style continues to grow
It’s clear we’re now seeing what Emery wants his team to look like. From the defensive organisation and shape out of possession to frustrate Tottenham, to the intricate play and speed of attack when we win the ball back, these were the clearest signs yet.
When building and moulding a team to play this way, there will naturally be setbacks and bumps in the road, as we saw in the defeat to Liverpool.
However, the important thing now is that we are moving in the right direction, we’re developing an identity and style of play, and it’s arguably a bonus that results are arriving so soon into the process as it’s giving us breathing space to continue to work on things calmly and to have something to build on moving forward.