Aston Villa captain John McGinn has spoken in-depth about the influence that Unai Emery has had thus far, both on him personally and the team as a whole.
In 11 Premier League games in charge to date, Emery has overseen six wins, one draw and four defeats, with Villa now pushing to break into the top 10 in the standings while we’ve seen clear progress and signs of an identity and style of play emerge in both phases of the game under the Spaniard.
READ MORE: How Villa could line up vs Palace: Two potential key changes from Emery
In turn, it has largely been positive thus far even though there have been expected setbacks along the way, and the emphasis so far has been on improving the options available and getting more out of the players at his disposal.
We’ve seen that across the pitch too. Whether it’s Ollie Watkins scoring goals consistently, the midfield partnership between Douglas Luiz and Boubacar Kamara flourishing and with several others stepping up and improving.
McGinn was initially asked about one of our weaknesses though, and there is a clear focus on improving our home form as while we’ve been excellent on the road for the most part, we’ve not been good enough at Villa Park having suffered back-to-back 4-2 defeats in our last two outings.
McGinn on Villa’s home form, how to improve
“The manager’s been strong on trying to improve the home form,” he told VillaTV. “It’s up to us to get smiles back on faces at Villa Park and give ourselves the best chance to finish the season hopefully in the top half and as high as we possibly can.”
On what Villa need to do to improve at home, McGinn added: “Clean sheet. Patience more than anything else. It’s about managing the game, we don’t need to chase the second, third, fourth [goals] so quickly. It’s up to the players to manage that ourselves. Away from home we seem to be a bit more measured, calmer on the ball, play with our heads a lot more. So we’ve spoken about it, it’s up to us to deal with it and hopefully manage the game better to get the three points.”
On his injury blow, rediscovering good form
McGinn went on to speak about his injury setback that he suffered in January which forced him to miss four league games, but the Scottish international is now seemingly relishing his new role on the right side of midfield under Emery, as he has impressed since making his comeback to earn a starting role in our last two games.
Further, he added his second assist of the campaign in the win over Everton last weekend, which doubled his tally with his previous assist coming at Tottenham in the game he suffered the injury blow.
“The injury came at a difficult time,” he added. “It’s certainly been a topsy-turvy season for me personally. I wasn’t in my best form at the start of the season. I was starting to find my rhythm again in a slightly newer position a little bit higher up which I was enjoying. I had to try and get my place back in the team which I’ve managed to do, I feel like I’m in a good place.
“I feel like I’m helping the team. I’m aware I’m 45 games without a goal, I went a long time before Spurs without an assist. I know I can contribute to help the team tactically and defensively but it’s about getting those numbers up and helping Ollie [Watkins] to score and the rest of the boys and it feels like I’m in a good place at the minute and long may it continue.”
On Emery’s influence on him and the team
The 28-year-old was also asked about Emery’s impact since arriving back in October, as he would have naturally introduced his own methods and ideas for the team to inspire the improvement that we’ve seen.
As with many other players who have spoken publicly about the Villa boss in recent months, McGinn also stressed how much he is learning, and it’s clear that he’s much happier in the position and role that he’s got now than perhaps compared to a more limited and shackled role that he had previously.
It’s important that he maintains that level and continues to influence our play in both phases further, as he is a vital cog in our midfield who can not only help us gain a foothold in games to give us a sense of control, but can also offer an important attacking dynamic too.
“The manager had a meeting with me when he came in and asked where I thought was my preferred position,” he said. “I felt there was a few I could help the team in and made that clear, but he’s someone who judges with his eyes and thankfully he’s seen that I can bring something to the team.
“I’m enjoying it [playing on the right]. It’s a bit of a new lease of life, I’m getting forward and getting freedom to go forward and not look behind but I’m enjoying the defensive side as well. I’m learning a lot about the game, learning a lot from the manager. It’s been really positive and hopefully we can carry that on and have a strong end to the season.”