Aston Villa rank third based on results since Unai Emery's first game in charge (November 13th). Emery has taken charge of fourteen games and has been victorious in eight, drew two and lost four, and Villa have scored in every single game that he has managed.
There are many reasons as to why Villa have been so good under Emery - Ollie Watkins really seems to suit the striker role in his system, John McGinn looks to have come into his own under the new manager, new signing Alex Moreno offers a lot down the left flank, and many other players have also made significant improvements, one of which being Douglas Luiz.
Luiz signed for Aston Villa from Man City in 2019 after promotion to the Premier League. City insisted on inserting a buy back clause into his contract, which has now expired, however that just goes to show how much Pep Guardiola rated the Brazillian.
He has played a hundred and forty games for Villa, scoring nine goals and getting thirteen assists. He recently signed a new contract with the club, extending his time at the club till 2026. Luiz attracted lots of interest last summer from a few Italian clubs such as Roma and AC Milan, and Arsenal, currently top of the Premier League, had three deadline day bids rejected for him.
The interest from the very top level only goes to show how good Douglas Luiz is, and it would have been a huge relief for everyone associate with the club when they found out that he wouldn't be leaving in the summer of 2023, when his contract was due to expire, as he put pen to paper to sign a new contract.
Throughout the majority of the Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard days, Luiz was mistaken for a defensive midfielder. He was often played as a "number six" and would be the one screening in front of the back four and breaking up play. Luiz was adequate at best in this role, and was never viewed as integral to Aston Villa.
The signing of Boubacar Kamara from Marsielle in the summer was massive for Douglas Luiz as this meant that he would no longer have to do the screening of the defence and the breaking up play as Kamara suits that role to a tee. This meant Luiz could now have the freedom to move further up the pitch and support teammates in wider areas. He still plays quite deep as him and Kamara sit in a double pivot. He definitely isn't the traditional "number eight" or "box to box", however he definitely has more freedom to move up the pitch and support than Kamara. One of Luiz's strengths is his long passing and from deep he can begin attacks for Villa by threading long through balls to the more threatening players on the pitch. An aspect that Luiz has really improved is his ability to carry the ball.
Villa lack exceptional carriers of the ball, Jacob Ramsey being the best at it, however Luiz has really improved this aspect of his game. For example, in yesterday's game against Bournemouth, Luiz picked the ball up from deep and carried it up the pitch and found Watkins on the left flank who cut inside and had a shot which deflected to Leon Bailey who then managed to find Douglas Luiz to tap it home and put Villa a goal in front.
Another aspect of Luiz's game that isn't being spoken about enough is his goals and assists. Eight goal contributions so far this season. Only Watkins has more with thirteen.
Luiz's development over the last three and a half years at Aston Villa is there for all to see, however his recent form under Emery has been something else. Him and Kamara look like the perfect pivot, and even whilst Kamara has been injured, Luiz still looks very good.
Consistency has been a weakness in Luiz's game in his spell at Villa. Sometimes he'll look exceptional, other weeks he'll look distinctly average, and other weeks he'll look poor. Under Emery, he's been exceptional, and Villa fans will be hoping he can keep it going as right now, he seems integral, undroppable and irreplaceable.
BY HARRY BATTERS - @HarryBatters