Unai Emery, the former manager of Arsenal, has returned to the Premier League after being named the new head coach of Aston Villa on Monday night. The Spaniard, who left the Emirates Stadium after a challenging start to his second season as manager, makes his first appearance in England in almost three years.
Later, he took over as manager of La Liga’s Villarreal, who he led to victory in the Europa League and an unlikely run to the Champions League semifinals. A job offer to join Newcastle United in November 2021 was included in all of that, but he declined it at the time.
Thus, almost a year later, he has returned to the Premier League with the Villains, who are looking forward to more than just a season of survival but also future success in Europe. The Spanish manager might use some of that money to add a number of players to the team to improve it.
When the market opens in January, Emery might try to sign a few players from his former club in an effort to achieve that goal. Following that, let’s take a look at some options the manager might consider.
Arsenal academy graduate Ainsley Maitland-Niles is yet to have an impact on the first team in a way he’d like, struggling to find a way into the side. With that in mind, he was sent out on loan to Southampton for the season, with his contract expiring at the end of the season.
The 25-year-old offers versatility, something that could be more than useful to Emery’s style of play across the pitch. Having already worked with the boss and being on a free transfer, it could be enough to see a potential return.
Albert Sambi Lokonga
Sambi Lokonga is yet to get his chance at Arsenal since making the switch from Anderlecht last summer, often playing in cup games rather than in the league. The Belgian will likely be desperate to prove himself to force his way into the national side, making the lack of time at the club all the more difficult.
The 23-year-old has been likened to Yaya Toure by former Manchester City star and manager Vincent Kompany, though he may need a loan switch or even a permanent deal away to prove that statement. A switch to Villa could well provide that for Emery, given some of their midfield troubles.
If Aston Villa and Emery really wanted to show their ambition, making a move for Kieran Tierney would be one of the best ways of doing just that. The Scotsman signed for Arsenal under the Spanish coach, going on to become a key player within the side in his tenure.
He has since fallen out of favour in the starting lineup, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu currently preferred at left-back. It could take a huge move to land his signature at the Midlands club, however, it may not be completely impossible.