Express & Star

Unai Emery gives important title message to Aston Villa fans

Unai Emery insisted it was too soon to declare Villa title contenders after they beat Arsenal to set a new club record of 15 consecutive home league wins.


The 1-0 win, courtesy of John McGinn’s seventh minute goal, moved Villa to within two points of the Premier League summit and completed a stunning double, coming less than 72 hours after Wednesday’s victory over Manchester City.

Emery expressed pride in his players and accepted his team will now be talked as possible title contenders, after winning 11 of their first 16 matches this season.

But he insisted the message inside the club will remain unchanged.

He said: “They are going to speak more about us but still being the same message to you and the supporters.

“We are still in there but there are seven teams more contenders than us to get into the top seven. Of course, if we get to day 30, 32 and we are keeping the same position, maybe I can think and send another message.”

Villa remain the only team in the top flight not to have lost a point from a winning position but they had to dig deep against the Gunners, who wasted several good chances and found their former goalkeeper Emi Martinez in imperious form.

The visitors also saw a late leveller ruled out for handball and Emery, who named the same starting XI as against City, admitted his players had to show very different qualities to three days previously.

“We had to compete,” he said. “They were two different matches. We had full energy on Wednesday and controlled the game. We deserved to win.

“Today we started very well. In the first 15 minutes we were in the same mood as Wednesday but after scoring the first goal we were feeling progressively tired.

“I was watching them and it was a long 90 minutes for some of them. We needed the players in the bench and their impact was really important.

“The starting XI was very important but the players on the bench have to be ready to play. Today they did.”

Emery continued: “I am very proud. To win 15 matches in a row, I have never before been in this situation and I think I won’t be again.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, who watched the match from the stands as he served touchline ban, claimed his team did enough to win.

He also appeared to express displeasure at Kai Havertz’s late goal being chalked out for handball, after referee Jarred Gillett’s original decision upheld following a VAR check.

Asked about the decision in his post-match press conference, Arteta kept repeating the phrase: “Clear and obvious.”