Two halves of the season with contrasting fortunes saw Aston Villa escape from the brink of despair to the Euphoric delight of competing in a European tournament for the first time in 13 years.
A mid-season change in the dugout saw the underwhelming Steven Gerrard replaced by the more experienced Unai Emery, and the upturn in fortunes was astronomical.
A flurry of victories in the second half of the season ensured Villa returned to the upper tiers of the Premier League while securing a place in the Europa Conference League play-off round.
Here’s Aston Villa’s 2022/23 season review.
Player of the Year: Ollie Watkins
There were several impressive performers, including Emiliano Martinez, Jacob Ramsey and captain John McGinn, whose invaluable leadership played a crucial role in Villa’s success story.
However, Ollie Watkins takes the spotlight over the rest of his teammates after firing the Villans to a European berth with 15 goals while setting up a further six.
The England international was the face of Villa’s astonishing turnaround, taking his goalscoring prowess to new heights under Emery’s tutelage.
Performance of the season
Villa were on the brink of despair when Emery replaced Gerrard, so it is no surprise that their best performance came during the Spaniard’s reign.
The 51-year-old made an instant impact crushing Manchester United with an emphatic 3-1 victory at Villa Park in his debut match back in November.
Although he could not replicate that result when both sides renewed hostilities in the FA Cup, their performances over both games raised significant optimism that Emery was the man for the job.
Disappointment of the season
Gerrard took the Villa job after winning the Scottish Premiership title with Rangers, but his reputation took a massive hit during the latter stages of his ill-fated tenure.
It was clear the Englishman was out of his depth at Villa Park, with the club tumbling down the Premier League table with every passing Matchday.
The 3-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage in October was further proof that the Gerrard experiment had blown up in their faces.
The performance left nothing to be desired, and the result spelled trouble for the Villans, who were languishing too close to the relegation zone before Gerrard was axed.
What do the stats say?
Villa finished sixth in the Premier League table with just one point separating them from the Europa League places.
They picked up a meagre 0.81 points per match under Gerrard, which pales in comparison to the impressive 1.96 points per game they racked up under Emery’s stewardship.
Villa accumulated 61 points (W18, D7, L13) – their highest tally since the 2009/10 campaign (64).
They scored 51 goals (1.34 per match) – the lowest of any side in the top seven, but that tally would be considerably higher if they did not hit the woodwork 21 times.
They shipped in 46 goals (1.21 per match), boasting the joint fourth-best defensive record in the league along with Brentford.
Martinez also proved a commanding influence between the sticks making 109 saves (2.9 per match). He kept 11 clean sheets – the joint fourth most in the league – along with Jose Sa and Ederson.
Emery’s impact at Villa is even more mind-boggling when you consider that he assumed his duties with the club just three points above the bottom three.
The Spanish tactician took 33 points from a possible 45 in the final 15 games of the season (W10, D3, L2), steering the Villans to their highest finish in the English top flight since 2010 (9th).
After arriving at Villa Park, Emery wasted no time implementing a defined style and tactical approach, uniting a disjointed squad bereft of belief and confidence and taking them to the promised land.
They have one foot in Europe, and betting against them to make progress would be silly, especially with Emery’s record in cup competitions.
Emery has done an outstanding job, but maintaining their trajectory will be the task at hand.
However, they have every reason to be optimistic ahead of next season, and Villa can rest assured they’re in safe hands with Emery in charge.
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