Aston Villa boss Unai Emery was pleased with several aspects of our performance in a 2-1 win over Leeds Utd on Friday night.
Leon Bailey struck early to put us ahead, and although we came under pressure and had to produce big defensive moments in the first half to preserve our advantage, we importantly went in ahead at the break.
Soon after the hour mark, Emiliano Buendia doubled our lead before the visitors managed to hit back in the latter stages and set up a frantic end, but Villa were able to hold out for all three points as we continued our impressive form under Emery in the Premier League.
That’s now 13 points from six league games under the Spaniard, and while this was arguably our least convincing performance, it was good to see us dig in, grind out a victory and produce a response after our horror show against Stevenage last time out.
That would have arguably been in some of the player’s minds as we looked to hold out for the win in the latter stages, and so Emery was pleased with the character shown by his side, while also pinpointing certain aspects of the performance where we could have been better.
“We showed very good character,” Emery told VillaTV. “It was very important with our supporters here in Villa Park, to try to connect with our supporters.
“This character but, as well, good skills, good positioning and a good way to win. I think in the first half we needed our goalkeeper, we needed to be defensively strong. But in the second half I think we reacted very well – keeping ball possession more, longer and, really, getting balls better than the first half.
“We had very good options, very good chances to score, we got the second goal, we created more chances to score. But at the end they were pushing, trying to keep the option in the match and they scored one goal, but it wasn’t enough for them.
“We are so, so happy.”
There certainly was an improvement in the second half, but it’s clear where we still need to work on to improve and implement his ideas and strategy better.
At times, Villa have dominated possession and controlled games but not been able to show enough quality in the final third to break through. This time, we lacked that same control and composure, and that in turn saw Leeds cause us real problems defensively.
This game was won on big moments being produced by Villa players throughout at both ends of the pitch. From Emi Martinez’s save to Buendia being in the right place at the right time to nod home and Bailey being on his game. Emery has every right to be happy with the result and certain aspects of the performance, but the Villa boss will also be fully aware that we have a lot to improve on still.
“We struggled in the first half and in the second half we played better. It was difficult for us to play through the press,” he told BBC Sport. “It was important to score the second goal because they were playing well to try and score and they did.
“It is no surprise for me that they came back. We needed the goalkeeper and Martinez’s save was amazing.
“I am so, so happy with Leon Bailey. In the last game he had two really good chances to win the match and he was a bit upset and today he scored the goal and did the action in the second goal.”
Our next encounter will see us face Southampton next Saturday afternoon in a difficult assignment, and so it’s imperative that we continue to evolve under Emery and make adjustments and improvements to build on this fine league form that we’ve started since his arrival.
Further, as we saw with the addition of Alex Moreno, we’ll look to continue to add quality players who improve us and give us a different dynamic and strengths in order to continue to improve and develop into a more competitive side.