Unai Emery will relish the World Cup break to work with his Aston Villa squad, and he’ll be hoping to have an important duo available at some stage in the second half of the season.
The Villa boss made an excellent start this month after registering back-to-back Premier League wins, and although our Carabao Cup run came to an end, there were plenty of positives to take forward in his early period in charge.
The break will now give him an opportunity to work closely with his players – at least those who haven’t been called up for international duty in Qatar – and the focus will no doubt be on getting his tactical and technical ideas and principles spot on to show further improvement when we resume on Boxing Day.
Naturally, Emery will be considering reinforcements in January to stamp his mark on the squad too, but he’ll have two players in Diego Carlos and Philippe Coutinho to consider as well when the Brazilian pair return from injury.
Carlos a boost, Coutinho a challenge for Emery
Whilst delivering his first team news update ahead of his first game in charge against Man Utd, Emery noted how Carlos would of course be unavailable, but praised the recruitment from the club in signing the former Sevilla defender.
Carlos is arguably a perfect fit for Emery. His aggressive and physical style of defending will suit our plans out of possession, while he has the technical quality and composure to build out from the back and give the Villa boss another weapon in the attacking phase of the game.
Given the severity of his injury setback, there will no rush in getting Carlos back on the pitch and it’s likely that we won’t see him until the latter stages of the season. Nevertheless, he will hope to continue his recovery and join the rest of the squad on our winter camp in Dubai, and that could potentially give us a more positive indication on how far away he is to making a comeback.
Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings have both impressed for Emery thus far, but the return of Carlos – whenever that may be – will be a major boost for us and while it’s perhaps a tired cliche, given we barely saw him in competitive action before the blow, he will be like a new signing next year.
Meanwhile, with Coutinho nursing a muscle injury and expected to be sidelined for several weeks still – hence his disappointing setback over missing out on the World Cup – his return will be a real challenge for Emery in many ways.
With no goals and no assists to his name in 13 appearances so far this season, seven of which have been starts, the 30-year-old has struggled to find his form and subsequently lost his place in the side prior to his setback.
Time will tell if Emery intends on integrating him back into the side or whether he feels as though the club must move in a different direction, as many of the players brought in by Gerrard could be in the same position. Conversely, he could look at Coutinho as a major challenge in the sense of needing to get the best out of him and making him a focal point in the team.
There were real concerns over the manner of Coutinho’s struggles as he simply couldn’t find a way to influence games beyond goal contributions. Could Emery tweak his position and role in the side to get more from him? Would a move into a more central midfield role benefit him instead of coming up against physical and pacy full-backs that can nullify his threat?
Based on what we’ve seen thus far and how certain individuals have rediscovered form and confidence under Emery after just a fortnight, we shouldn’t put it past him finding a way with Coutinho too. However, time will tell if he does feature as part of his plans, as there is also the concern over what that would mean for Emiliano Buendia, who has so far established himself as a pivotal figure in Emery’s side.