Aston Villa boss Unai Emery emphasised the pride he felt after his side battled to a 1-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.
Ollie Watkins scored the only goal of the game after 77 minutes to break the deadlock and seal all three points for Villa, as we made it five wins in seven Premier League games under Emery.
It was also a third consecutive away win, and the result moves us to within three points of sixth place in the standings as we continue to build momentum and confidence.
After a positive first-half display where we controlled the game and tempo, Southampton responded as expected after the break and Villa had to dig in.
While we did lack quality in the final third and in front of goal for most of the encounter which threatened to eventually cost us, Watkins managed to find the back of the net, and it was enough to secure all three points and keep us moving in the right direction.
Unsurprisingly, Emery was delighted with the efforts of his players, and felt that the victory was well deserved in the end.
“I’m very proud of our work,” he told Villa TV. “We were being so, so competitive and trying to control the match in the first half. We had chances to score but we didn’t do it.
“In the second half, we started playing very well but they made some changes and were pushing. We waited for our moment to start controlling the match again and to get some options to score, and we did it.
“We deserved it because the players’ work was fantastic.”
Speaking about the general progress under his stewardship thus far, Emery again insisted that he was happy with what he has seen from the players, but with his elite managerial mindset and mentality, he was keen to stress that there is still improvement needed.
That is absolutely the right approach as we still need to push on and be better to get to where we want to be this season and beyond, and so it’s hoped that Emery continues to get the right reaction from the players who continue to learn his methods and execute his instructions.
Further, the hope is that we also bring in additional reinforcements this month to help with that, but ultimately the focus thus far has been on improving the players at his disposal and getting more out of them, and that has been the case to date.
“We are so happy with what we are doing,” he added. “We are being so, so competitive and taking points after we had been in the bottom [of the table].
“I want to improve. I want to do better. I want to be demanding with the players and continue working to improve.
“We are doing it step-by-step and the players are responding well.”
Villa now have time to regroup and recharge as we’re not in action again until February 4 as we host Leicester City, while that also gives the club an opportunity to fully focus on the last week or so of the transfer window to see who we can bring in to strengthen the squad.
Emery has emphasised time and time again that we will only sign players who raise the level of the group, and so it will be fascinating to see where he prioritises any activity, and if we can indeed bring in the targets that he has in mind.