Aston Villa is a club on the rise. Last season, they finished seventh ahead of the likes of Tottenham and Chelsea, who both underachieved. This is a massive improvement on the 14th place finish they achieved in the 21/22 season. Thus far in the 2023/24 campaign, they are fifth on 22 points. That is after 11 games in the season.
In fact, since the 5-1 opening day defeat to Newcastle at St. James Park, they have beaten Chelsea 1-0 away and Brighton 6-1 at home. What is most remarkable is that they are doing this while playing in the UEFA Europa Conference League. Let us delve into the reasons why they are dark horses for the top four.
Quality of players at their disposal
In the last two seasons, Aston Villa has signed Moussa Diaby, Youri Tielemens, Pau Torres, Nicolo Zaniolo and Boubacar Kamara. These signings have taken the club to the next level, and can strike fear into any Premier League side. Based on the law of averages, one of these signings is likely to flop but there should be more successes.
Two signings that are a complete contrast so far are Moussa Diaby and Nicolo Zaniolo. Diaby has fared well so far scoring three goals and notching three assists in 10 Premier League games. He will only get better with time as he gets used to the Premier League and his new teammates.
In contrast, Zaniolo has yet to record a goal or assist in any of his eight Premier League games. The Italian’s performances can be excused since he had the betting scandal to deal with. It is likely he will be fined a few thousand euros as his bets did not concern football matches but rather poker and blackjack on unregulated platforms.
Aside from the recent signings, Unai Emery boosts top Premier League level players such as Jacob Ramsey, Tyrone Mings, Lucas Digne and Douglas Luiz.
Villa Park is a fortress
The Villains have won their last 12 league home games. Out of the current ‘Big Six’, only Liverpool (17) and Manchester City (15) have a longer unbeaten home record which is rather remarkable given the quality of players Liverpool and Man City have. This stat will give Villa a huge advantage in the top four race, especially if they can win against those two clubs at home.
Unai Emery is a top class manager
Emery’s appointment has proved to be one of the best decisions made by the Villa hierarchy in recent times, followed by a series of nifty player signings that includes the highly rated Diaby, Torres, and Zaniolo.
He has taken Villa from a mid-table team to a side fighting for European places in 12 months. In the Europa Conference League they have gotten off to a steady start, having won two of their first three games. Despite losing their first group game they should not have any problems qualifying as group winners.
Aston Villa is a massive favourite for the tournament given they have a manager who knows how to manoeuver European competitions, especially in the knockout rounds.