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Why Pau Torres return will secure top-four spot - Aston Villa

Why Pau Torres return will secure top-four spot - Aston Villa 

Why Pau Torres return will secure top-four spot - Aston Villa

There is something about Aston Villa that just doesn’t capture the imagination.

Save for a single week of media attention following back-to-back December victories over Arsenal and Manchester City discussion of Villa’s remarkable campaign and the intricacies within it have been strangely ignored, certainly by comparison to clubs floating around the same position.

Tottenham Hotspur have regularly been touted as outsiders for the title and coverage of their debut campaign under Ange Postecoglou has been non-stop, and while it’s understandable that Manchester United would garner more attention than Villa it’s surprising that neutrals are more excited by stories at Brighton and Newcastle.

Excited is the right word. Villa’s problem is they aren’t sexy. There’s no glittery superstar-in-the-making equivalent to Alexander Isak or Kaoru Mitoma; no adventurous idealism from the touchline as at Tottenham; no furious cycle of hope and decay as at Man Utd.

In fact, there’s no story at all, beyond a brutally hard-working manager perfectly enacting battle-plans with likeable-but-dull players listening to his every word.

It means Unai Emery’s quiet efficiency flies under the radar and it means neutrals are quick to assume a fall is coming. Fewer column inches and less air time translates into the broad assumption that Villa defeats precipitate a drift back into the obscure middle space, while Villa’s achievements especially when against the odds - are often missed.

All of which is to say nobody seemed to notice that during Aston Villa’s difficult run across January and early February, when they won eight points from seven Premier League games, Emery was forced to play his fourth- and fifth-choice centre-backs. That feels pretty important, and yet analysis would rarely go beyond the casual shrug that said Villa were running out of energy and regressing to the mean.

Man Utd’s four-game winning streak has cemented the narrative that Villa will soon fall behind United in the race for the fifth Champions League spot, and understandably so in a world where pundits are drawn to stories that catch the eye.

Fair enough, the partnership forming between Marcus Rashford, Rasmus Hojlund, and Alejandro Garnacho is considerably more exciting than the meticulous tactical structure of Emery’s Villa. It’s certainly a lot more interesting to watch on highlights packages, in fits and bursts.

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