Shropshire Star

Pep Guardiola gives Aston Villa ultimate compliment as Unai Emery looks to Arsenal challenge

Pep Guardiola declared Villa Premier League title contenders after watching them beat Manchester City.


Leon Bailey’s 74th minute winner sent Villa above the reigning champions and up to third in the table, four points behind leaders Arsenal who they host on Saturday.

Asked if Unai Emery’s men can win the title, Guardiola replied: "Definitely. For the way they are playing and when you are there and see the physicality, the tempo the speed, the bench, the organisation from Unai and the set pieces and the high pressing and medium block, how incredible they defend the back and a good keeper... Absolutely."

Villa boss Emery disagreed, sticking with his claim there are seven stronger teams in the top flight.

Few will believe him after Wednesday’s win. Emi Martinez twice denied Erling Haaland in quick succession but they were City’s only two attempts on goals of the match, the fewest ever by a Guardiola team in Europe’s top five leagues.

Villa finished with 22 attempts on goal and though Bailey’s winner came courtesy of a deflection off Ruben Dias, it was deserved.

Emery’s men will host the Gunners aiming for a 15th consecutive home league win to beat a record which has stood since 1903.

“We are not contenders, there are seven teams more contenders,” said Emery, who scored his first win over Guardiola at the 14th attempt. “This is day 15, day 16 is against Arsenal. We must focus. We are happy to be third, but to keep it, it will be very difficult. While we are there, we will try to keep it.

“It’s a difficult challenge to take control of the game for 90 minutes but we did it. We created lots and we controlled the attack in the high press. We were believing.

“In my career, hopefully more in the next weeks, months and years I can continue improving as a coach and with the team I am trying to build. Today was fantastic but we must keep a balance. The dressing room is happy, but the next challenge is on Saturday. Tomorrow we are focusing again on Saturday.”