By Anthony Onifade

14th Jul, 2023 | 9:38am

Unai Emery now faces pivotal squad decision at Aston Villa after Pau Torres transfer

Aston Villa officially announced the signing of Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Unai Emery now faces some painful headaches surrounding his defensive options ahead of the new campaign.

Torres, 26, played under Villa boss Unai Emery with the Spanish club between 2020 and 2023 and performed a crucial role as the Yellow Submarine finished fifth in an impressive La Liga campaign last season.

He made 173 appearances for his boyhood team, scoring 12 times, and has played 23 times for Spain and becomes Aston Villa’s second signing of the summer after Youri Tielemans in a statement summer so far from Emery’s team.

The Spaniard is now set to join a very talented crop of Aston Villa centre-backs at Villa Park, with him, Tyrone Mings, Diego Carlos and Ezri Konsa all vying for places in Emery’s plans next season.

And given the quality of all of those options, Villa fans will be forgiven for wondering who Emery will choose as his favoured pairing when the new season kicks off against Newcastle on 12 August.

Whoever the former Villarreal boss turns to, Aston Villa will certainly be in very capable hands at the heart of the defence, but Mings, Konsa and Carlos must all prepare for the most testing pre-season of their careers, especially with Emery taking a huge liking to Torres following their successful three years together at Villarreal.

Emery is not only a compatriot of Torres but he will also already know what he’s capable of having managed him during his time at Villarreal, and having been dubbed a “dream” signing for any Premier League club by journalist Ryan Haber, the centre-back represents a fantastic acquisition, but almost certainly a guaranteed starter in Emery’s first XI.

And his stats prove as much, given the Spanish international knows Emery’s playing style to a tee. Torres averaged 4.1 clearances, 1.7 aerial wins and 1.3 tackles per game last season in La Liga [WhoScored] proving a real rock at the heart of Villarreal’s defence, but he equally has an eye on making a positive impact driving forward from deep which Emery is trying to incorporate in the West Midlands.

The 26-year-old ranked in the 99th percentile for progressive carries and the 97th percentile for successful take-ons, showcasing his incredible class and qualities when playing out of the back, or even possessing the ability to evade high pressure from onrushing attackers.

Having been crowned winner of the Europa League in 2020/21, Torres will additionally know what it takes to compete and be successful on the bigger stage – which is what Aston Villa will be up against next season in the Europa Conference League – so he could help to create the winning mentality needed to gain results over European opponents.

However, it’s alongside him at the heart of the Villa Park defence where Emery will be enduring a few painful selection headaches in the weeks to come.

None of Konsa, Mings or Carlos possesses the progressive class as Torres, but still, all three defenders are quality options to have and all worthy in their own right to partner with the Spaniard next season. Certainly, Mings should be guaranteed a place given his captaincy, leadership and experience for the club, but he isn’t prone to healthy and challenging competition.

Aston Villa fans won’t be worrying one bit and they will rest assured with the knowledge that they now have four exceptional and quality centre-backs at their disposal with the club now heading in an impressive and incredibly competitive new era with European football now on the horizon at Villa Park.

The same can’t be said for Emery though, let’s hope he has a few painkillers ready as he is in for a tough defensive selection headache. A great problem to have for any manager.

In other Aston Villa news, big-name signings are now on the cards after a behind-the-scenes arrival at Villa Park.