Villa vibrant, Spurs sinking… Emery plots a tilt at top four

Villa vibrant, Spurs sinking… Unai Emery plots a tilt at top four next year, as Tottenham head the opposite way with the directions of the two clubs highlighted in 2-1 win for hosts

  • Only Manchester City and Arsenal have more points since Unai Emery took over
  • Tottenham, meanwhile, are managerless and sliding down the league table
  • They have opted against a reunion with Mauricio Pochettino and are still looking

Aston Villa were wallowing deep in the Championship at the end of the season when Tottenham finished as Premier League runners-up with 86 points.

That was back in 2017, the high watermark of the Mauricio Pochettino era at Spurs, with a glitzy new stadium under construction and a fizz of excitement about the potential of the young team spearheaded by Harry Kane, the best striker in the country.

Kane’s quality endures and the stadium is every bit as splendid as anticipated but the rest has fallen flat as Daniel Levy casts around for his next manager, ignoring the romance of a Pochettino return and clearing the way for him to join London rivals Chelsea.

Villa, meanwhile, are accelerating under ambitious ownership, with Unai Emery adding fresh purpose to their project with his commitment to a dashing style of football, with a high defensive line and high energy up front.

Only Arsenal and Manchester City have won more points since his appointment in October. He looks every bit the right man at the right time for Aston Villa.

Unai Emery has added fresh purpose to Aston Villa’s project with his appointment proving to be a resounding success

Villa beat Tottenham 2-1 on Saturday to continue their push towards a European finish

Tottenham, meanwhile, are in a difficult situation and have opted against reappointing Mauricio Pochettino

‘The trophies and teams he’s managed speak for themselves,’ said Jacob Ramsey, scorer of Villa’s first in Saturday’s 2-1 win. ‘He’s really confident and really demanding. It affects us in a good way and we’re showing that now.’

Emery has quickly created identity and has a strong crop of young players to support his plans.

Douglas Luiz scored the second, a free-kick, and Villa survived a late scare and Kane’s 27th league goal of the season, a penalty, to do the double over Spurs for the first time since the mid-Nineties.

The final games look tough, at Liverpool and at home to Brighton, but Emery has them eyeing a tilt at the top four next season.

‘That’s the plan,’ said Ramsey. ‘Everyone knows the quality we’ve got. The two better teams have been City and Arsenal, and if we sustain that next season, we’ve got a good chance of coming third or whatever so that’s the plan, to continue this form, listening to the boss and keep playing well.’

Optimism contrasting sharply to the mood at Tottenham, where fans accustomed to Champions League football have little to cheer as they drift back into UEFA’s minor competitions.

They have taken eight points from eight games since sacking Antonio Conte after a blistering critique of the club’s defeatist culture and ‘selfish’ players when they surrendered a two-goal lead to draw at Southampton.

Jacob Ramsey, who scored Villa’s first on Saturday, said his side are aiming for a top four finish next season

Villa’s points tally has been bettered by only Manchester City and Aston Villa since Emery’s appointment

Spurs were fourth at the time, 11 points better off than Villa. Under Ryan Mason, their second interim boss since Conte’s exit, they cling to sixth place, with Brentford at home on Saturday and Leeds away on the final day, and they are fading fast.

Sam Allardyce will surely be earmarking Tottenham’s trip to Elland Road on Sunday week as a prime chance for three points. Spurs have not won in a league game outside London since scrambling a late winner at Bournemouth in October.

Those in the away end at Villa Park aimed their fury at Levy. Many of their fans are in no doubt that the Premier League’s longest-serving chairman is the root cause of their failure to kick on from 2017 to deliver trophies.

Moreover, they have little faith that anything will change with the appointment of a new manager. Nothing did under serial winners Jose Mourinho or Conte. And today, 57 days after Conte’s eruption at St Mary’s, there is still no clarity about the next step.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy must decide who will lead Spurs next as he looks for a permanent manager

Things can change quickly with the right appointment but that feels a long way off now

There was no interest in Pochettino II and they have opted against a move for Julian Nagelsmann, another candidate with popular support. Friday’s move to quash the speculation around Nagelsmann hints that Levy is lining up someone in work.

Chief among these candidates are Arne Slot of Feyenoord and Ruben Amorim of Sporting Lisbon, names fitting a return to the type of young, ambitious coach Spurs sought when luring Pochettino from Southampton in 2014.

Things can change quickly with the right appointment, as Emery and Aston Villa are proving, but only if everything inside the club is synchronised and there is added peril for Tottenham at a time when others are rising from the pack to threaten their place on the fringe of the elite.

Newcastle have swept by. Villa and Brighton are on the rise. This stadium was built for the Champions League but there is no guarantee of European football of any kind in such a competitive environment. It is critical Levy’s next move is a good move.

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