Aston Villa have finally started to master the passing art that Unai Emery demands
Since arriving as Aston Villa manager, Unai Emery has time and again urged his players to pass out from the back in order to launch attacking springboards – and his team may have finally started to master this art.
Over the past two months, the Spaniard’s side have been caught out at the back when playing sloppy passes on numerous occasions, notably in the demoralising 4-2 defeat to Leicester City at Villa Park.
However, in the defeat to Arsenal and, more recently, the 1-0 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday (4 March), the tactics are starting to bear fruit.
In a game lacking quality and goalmouth action, it was a seven-pass move all the way from Emi Martinez and finishing with Matty Cash that resulted in Joachim Andersen diverting the ball into the back of his own net.
Martinez started with the ball at his feet and played a sideways pass to Tyrone Mings as he came under pressure from Wilfried Zaha.
After beating Palace’s aggressive by firstly then playing it to left-back Alex Moreno, Douglas Luiz came close to happily offer an option on the edge of his own 16-yard box. The Brazilian pivoted under little pressure and played his midfield counterpart Boubacar Kamara the ball as Palace’s front two scrambled to get back goalside of the ball.
Kamara drove forward with the ball – engaging Palace’s midfield in the process – before laying the ball to John McGinn, who had time to spin, look up and play a defence-splitting pass to Matty Cash on the right wing. The Poland international took the ball in his stride before playing a devilish low cross that Andersen clumsily turned past Vicente Guaita.
The move was the total football that Emery has been heeding in training over the past few months. Within seven passes – with limited risk, if the players know their roles and perform them dutifully – it is possible to carve open opportunities at the other end of the pitch.
This wasn’t the first time that the Villa Park faithful had witnessed Emery-ball in action, as an extremely similar move reaped its rewards during the 4-2 loss to league-leaders Arsenal.
Philippe Coutinho’s first Premier League goal of the season was possibly an even better-constructed goal, with it taking just six passes on this occasion to go from Emi Martinez with the ball in his hands to prise open one of the meanest defences in the league.
Once again, the role of Kamara in this goal was instrumental. The Frenchman’s ability to stay calm and composed when under pressure in the midfield is worth its weight in gold for Emery, as he is happy taking the ball from the back-four and driving the play forward.
The 23-year-old’s injury he sustained against Palace is a hammer blow to the momentum that Villa have been building in the past week, with the midfielder expected to be out for a few weeks at a minimum.
Despite this, the signs are looking promising under Emery. Step by step, the Spaniard is transforming Aston Villa into a well-oiled machine who are happy to play out from the back.
In other Aston Villa news, the future of this loanee hangs in the balance as contract talks await.