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Aston Villa 1–2. Manchester United: Why Villa will still make the Premier League’s top four – Stephen Warnock

It’s a setback, but I’ve been watching Villa carefully this season, having spent time with their players in the United States during the Premier League Summer Series in July, and I’m convinced they’ll react.

With the organization I’ve seen from Unai Emery – his game plan and tactical modifications he makes throughout games – I believe they will have enough.

Despite some recent dismal performances, Villa has not suddenly begun to play badly. The most noticeable difference between now and the beginning of the season is that they are not capitalizing on opportunities in close games.

Up front, Ollie Watkins is having a stretch when things aren’t coming his way in front of goal as they used to.

Watkins has only scored twice in his last seven Premier League outings, compared to nine goals in his first 17 league games this season.

He has the same number of opportunities each game, but his shooting conversion has nearly halved, and he has gone from outperforming to underperforming in terms of predicted goals.

Behind Watkins, Moussa Diaby’s form has deteriorated, and he has played significantly less.

He started Villa’s first 13 league games of the season, but while appearing in all 15 games played in all competitions after the beginning of December, he has only came off the bench eight times.

They’ve missed having him at his best, but they’re still generating opportunities, as we saw against United when they had plenty of chances to win.

It is definitely upsetting when you don’t take them and lose, but I see what Villa is doing and believe they will succeed.

It would be far worse for Emery and his players to lose games without those opportunities and conclude, “Well, we don’t have an identity, or a clear idea of what we are trying to achieve.”

When I watched Villa practice in the summer and chatted with Emery, I was struck by the degree of precision in his coaching, as well as his players’ comprehension of why they were doing it and playing in a specific style.

the’s why I said they’d finish in the top four before the season began, and they’ve put all of the preparation I saw into action on the field.

We’ve seen over the last six months that they have a distinct identity and a rhythm to their game, and it was the same versus United.

One of Emery’s standout qualities is his adaptability in his approach, which he demonstrated again on Sunday.

No matter how hard United attempted to resist Villa’s tactics, they always found a way to get underneath them. It was just the ultimate result that was lacking, and even then, the game would have turned out quite differently if Andre Onana had not made several outstanding saves.

So, I’m not worried about Villa based on that result or performance; there were plenty of positives to take away from the game.

My main issue is if their roster is deep enough to maintain the appropriate level till the conclusion of the season.

Given Villa’s position at the top of the table, I was surprised they did not add more players in January.

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They signed four young players, but only Morgan Rogers, who came from Middlesbrough, made it into the first team.

To stay near the top, I believe you must always improve as a team, but this is dependent on the quality of your players. To routinely win games, you need clinical players, often known as game changers.

Diaby was Villa’s game-changer at the start of the season, but if his form has fallen, who will they look to?

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