Aston Villa stormed to their sixth victory at Villa Park by beating European rivals Tottenham 2-1 in front of a jubilant home crowd. Here’s Unai Emery’s full reaction from the press room with all eyes on Liverpool now next week.
It was a dominant first half where you could have been three or four ahead – did you deserve the win?
Good evening. Yes, I think we played at a high level, the first half better than the second. We kept our identity in possession. We created chances and we have to think that’s the way we want to build here with the team. Being consistent and focused in 90 minutes is not easy. We played against a good team, a team ahead of us in the table. They played a little better, but in the end we deserved to win. That’s the way we want to create, connect with the supporters and get their energy. This is the sixth game we have won here in a row. It is now important to stay motivated, because it gives us opportunities to come to Europe.
Unai, when you first came here, the atmosphere in the club was very low. You quickly changed that and it’s very high now, the connection between the team and the fans again, and yourself. How powerful is that connection, given the sixth home win?
It’s very important, the supporters. They travel away every game, 3,000, 4,000 supporters. And here at home, 42,000 supporters are behind us trying to energize us. We have a responsibility to give them one idea, one style…emotions and then try to win.
When we didn’t play as well in some games and weren’t controlling like we are now, the supporters supported us. When we lost to Arsenal and Leicester, the supporters were there. When we win, they’re more excited.
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Unai, only Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta have more points per game than you since you came to the Premier League. Can you keep that up – or get even better?
First, we try to be competitive and adapt quickly to the idea and style we want to create here. Then it’s how we face each opponent. In the beginning we were very well away from home. It was amazing. The last two games we lost we drew at Brentford and we are still less competitive and have taken fewer points than before.
At home it is completely different. We started with a little doubt. After we beat Manchester United, we lost to Liverpool, we drew against Wolves, we lost to Leicester and Arsenal, but after those games I really changed something in my mind, first and then I tried to change with the players. It wasn’t the way I wanted to do it. The last six games have been completely different. Also today: stay different. I was very happy in the first half. The second half was very difficult to maintain the performance. My goal in the next game is to be consistent for another 90 minutes. The players show their great commitment. We connect with our supporters. We will keep trying to move forward every step of the way.
Unai, did you feel that the Europa League was a realistic goal?
No. No. When I got here no, obviously. It was a process. I told the players that it was not the intention to go to Europe this year. But if we get a chance to go there, we’ll try to get it. If we don’t, OK, it’s not a failure. It’s a process. Our success is gradually increasing and our demands are very high. We have to improve every day.
What about the Europa League after today?
Today, yes, because we are improving. Now our challenge comes against Liverpool again next week because we are not as competitive as before. We are going to work hard this week to get the chance to take a European position.
You started Leon Bailey on the right side today. What did you think of his performance?
Very good, very good. He played against Wolves for 45 minutes. He is injured and today he played very well. He assisted Jacob on the first goal. I think he is now very committed to helping us again. We needed him and we will need him now.
Douglas Luiz said downstairs ‘we believe in Unai Emery’. How much do you believe in the players?
I believe in them. We must create a small family in which we are demanding. We have to improve every day and practice a lot. Then we have to build a strong mentality, to win, try to focus our lives here on football.
How is Philippe Coutinho, are you?
No. Yesterday he had another small injury, but I don’t know exactly how long he will be.
How important is John McGinn?
Yes, he played a huge game. He is very good every day, his dedication, he smiles every day and works every day with a very good spirit. Then adding his qualities in different positions is always good for the team. He is very competitive in every position and now playing as number 8 he is playing very well. I changed his position and he did.
When I analyzed him before coming here, I looked at him, qualities, to add my idea here with him. Gradually he started the first game on the bench against Manchester United, but he showed me his commitment, his abilities and he is a very important player for us.
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