“Manager of the season” – Collymore lauds Unai Emery for doing “an almost impossible job”

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An impressive performance in Lille saw Aston Villa emerge victorious after a penalty shoot-out in their Europa Conference League quarter-final, and gave even more credence to Stan Collymore’s opinion that Unai Emery should be awarded the manager of the season gong.

Coming so soon after the Villains deservedly toppled Emery’s old side Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, thus denting their Premier League title aspirations in the process, the win merely underscored just what an excellent operator the Midlands-based side have at the helm.

Often ridiculed during his time at the Gunners for starting every interview with a Spanish-lilted ‘good evening’ greeting, he has shown beyond any doubt whatsoever that he has what it takes to manage a team at the elite level.

Unai Emery would be a worthy manager of the season

Collymore is in no doubt as to Emery’s credentials either.

“An early shout with a lot of football still to decide the pots and pans and golden tickets to stay up or get into Europe, but I can’t think of a better shout than Unai Emery as manager of the season,” he said to CaughtOffside for his exclusive column.

“Why? Well, notwithstanding the ifs and buts, like getting into the Champions League places with games to play, I’ll stick to facts…

“This guy followed Steven Gerrard who presided over one of the most soulless Villa teams of any decade.

“Players who are now flying seemed disconnected from the fans, the manager never opened up and appreciated Villa’s tremendous support and the club nearly went down for a second time in five years – something the relatively new and very wealthy owners just wouldn’t have.

Unai Emery for manager of the year?

“So in comes a guy who’s reputation in England was shaped exclusively by being the man who followed Wenger at Arsenal, an almost impossible job as Man United’s last five managers will testify.

“Unai Emery has ensured that Villa have an attractive team, the connection between fans has been restored, players, club and manager are vibrant and one of England’s biggest and grandest clubs is finally punching with the big dogs again – and knocking plenty out.

“That’s down to the insane amount of hard work Emery insists on from everyone around him.

“He’s a likeable and quietly passionate man who loves the sport and the support of two owners who put the money in but aren’t seen on Sky Sports News every five minutes telling you what their grand plans are.

“Unai Emery took on a relegation-threatened team and is on the brink of taking almost the same team to the Champions League.

“That’s worthy of a gong or two in my book.”

Whilst there will be those detractors that will point out that Villa are only in the Europa Conference League, the fact is that they are the last men standing in terms of English teams in Europe this season.

Arsenal, Man City, West Ham and Liverpool… all eliminated, but Villa stand proud and ready to take on Olympiacos for a place in the final against either last season’s beaten finalists, Fiorentina, or Club Brugge.

Given Emery’s record in the latter stages of European competition, you wouldn’t bet against him taking his side all the way, and lest we forget that Villa still have a great chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League under his tutelage.

The next few weeks will determine just how successful the 2023/24 campaign will have been for Villa, but even if they don’t reach the promised land in either the Conference League or in their attempts to qualify for the Champions League, Emery’s influence across the campaign isn’t in doubt.

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