Aston Villa's Structure On And Off The Field Could See Spurs Fall Further Behind

Villa and Spurs are both fighting for a place in Europe next season
10:01, 13 May 2023

Just three points separate Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur ahead of their Premier League clash at Villa Park. And with just three games remaining and a top-six spot to battle for, there are huge consequences on the line in Saturday’s enticing fixture.

Unai Emery’s side have catapulted up the league table since the Spaniard’s introduction in October, winning 13 of the 22 Premier League matches he has overseen since replacing Steven Gerrard in the Villa Park hot seat. 

It is a switch that has already proven to be a masterstroke and one that will have this weekend’s opponents feeling envious. Spurs have been through two managerial changes this year, with Antonio Conte being replaced by his assistant Cristian Stellini on an interim basis before Stellini was sent on his way after Spurs’ humiliating 6-1 defeat at Newcastle United last month.


Ever since Aston Villa were taken over by Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens in 2018, people have wondered how long it would take the one-time European champions to get into a position where they could contend for a position in the top six. Things on the field were looking bleak under Gerrard, and his predecessor Dean Smith made steady progress but convinced nobody of his ability to take the club to the next level. But Emery seems to have cracked the code, having a great influence on the players in the squad, reigniting certain individuals’ careers in B6 including John McGinn and Tyrone Mings.

Emery has predominantly used a 4-2-3-1 system at Villa but has occasionally used the 4-4-2 he preferred in his last post with Villarreal. Not only has he improved the players already at his disposal, he has them playing a style that should serve them well in the years to come. 

There is a good feeling amongst the supporters that Emery can lead them into Europe for the first time since 2010-11 under Martin O’Neill. On that occasion and in the season prior, they couldn’t get past the competition’s play-off round - losing to Rapid Vienna in both attempts.

The club has done well to bring in a manager with a wealth of experience in Europe which should help them venture further than their previous adventures over a decade ago. After all, Emery is the coach with the most Europa League titles (four), and his pedigree is respected all across the continent.

Villa have also been working hard in recent weeks to help strengthen their structure behind the scenes, with Mateu Alemany set to come in as the director of football from Barcelona in June. Johan Lange is the current sporting director and it is believed he will remain in a senior role to assist Alemany and Emery in their attempts to build a Villa side that will consistently challenge for European football each season.

Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy
Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy

Over at Spurs, they’re on the hunt for a new sporting director following Fabio Paratici’s resignation after his ban in Italy from January was extended worldwide last month. Once again the London club have suffered another huge setback which, combined with several managerial changes since Mauricio Pochettino’s departure in 2019, highlights that they are falling behind their rivals when it comes to building a vision.

There has never been a clearer lack of direction on the pitch for the players due to the number of different coaches they have had to take instruction from in this period. They have had Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, Conte, Stellini and now Ryan Mason twice since Poch left in late-2019. The lack of order in the team over the past few years has seen the club undo the hard work the Argentine had displayed during his reign, and his exit still haunts this part of north London.

Chairman Daniel Levy has been subject to calls from supporters to leave the club many times in recent years but the shouts are getting louder as they chant for his exit regularly at their matches. All the bad decisions at the club in this period have stemmed from him, so the responsibility lies at his door. Spurs are in a scenario now where they don’t need to worry about the teams within the traditional ‘big six’ as the likes of Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion are showing their own top-six credentials with organisation on and off the field.

Tottenham’s lack of leadership and structure over the past few years has invited challenges from other clubs with ambition to close the gap on them, and Villa and Brighton are the leading examples, with the latter’s organisational structure presently the model that those with long-term ambitions should follow.

Regardless of what happens in Saturday’s contest, Spurs’ lack of clarity will continue to hold them back from being the club they want to be. Villa have already started getting their house in order and, even if they were to miss out on a Europa League spot this year, you can expect them to be among the mix in 12 months’ time.

They will likely have a stronger team with the added support of Alemany in what is sure to be a very active summer transfer window for them. And with the disarray to continue behind the scenes at Spurs, the clear structure Villa are putting in place could see them leapfrog Tottenham, leaving Spurs vulnerable to other clubs doing exactly the same.

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