Talking Tactics

Summer Series: How will Torres improve Emery's defence?

By Adrian Clarke 21 Jul 2023
Unai Emery and Pau Torres

Adrian Clarke assesses the key talking points for the Villans ahead of pre-season tournament in USA

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With the Premier League Summer Series starting on Saturday 22 July in the USA, Adrian Clarke assesses the six clubs involved, highlighting the key questions that could be answered during the tournament.

Team analysis: Aston Villa

Building from a solid defensive platform has been Unai Emery’s tactical blueprint throughout his illustrious coaching career, and it formed the basis of Aston Villa’s revival under the Spaniard last season.  

After losing 4-2 to his former club Arsenal on 18 February, Emery’s side conceded just eight goals in their final 15 matches.  

During that excellent run, which helped them claim a place in the UEFA Europa Conference League, Villa did not let in more than one goal in a single match.

Facing Newcastle United, Fulham and Brentford in the Premier League Summer Series, Villa could be a tough nut to crack, especially from open play.  

Open-play goals conceded 22/23
Team Total
Newcastle 20
Man City 22
Aston Villa 23
Brentford 29
Man Utd 30
Competition for places

Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa finished 2022/23 in outstanding form, but there is no guarantee they will be Emery’s first-choice partnership for the start of the new season.  

Former Sevilla star Diego Carlos has returned from a long-term injury, and last week Spain international Pau Torres joined from Villarreal, being reunited with Emery.

Torres, 26, is a tall, left-footed defender who is supremely confident in possession.  

He is comfortable playing out from the ball and confident taking risks in tight areas, making him tailor-made for the type of football Emery is developing.

Villa's Summer Series fixtures
Date Opp. Venue Time (Eastern Time Zone)
23 July Newcastle Philadelphia 19:00
26 July Fulham Orlando 19:00
30 July Brentford Landover 12:00

See: Summer Series schedule

Torres's stats from last season were incredibly impressive.  

Elegant in possession and very happy to travel forward with the ball at his feet, he carried it progressively further than any other player in LaLiga for the second campaign running. 

Torres's 2022/23 stats
  Total LaLiga rank
Progressive carrying distance 7,623m 1st
Touches 2,495 5th
Clearances 146 6th
Passes into final third 187 7th

During the Summer Series, fans will get to see how this impacts the Villa side for the very first time.  

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He is also a dominant presence inside his own box, and a player who will clip regular forward passes into the final third.  

It will be fascinating to see if Emery is content to use two left-footers - Torres and Mings - together. If not, Mings will be under pressure to keep his place in the starting XI.  

It is a situation for Fantasy Premier League managers to monitor throughout the tournament, with Villa's centre-backs costing only £4.5m in the game and potentially offering strong value this season.

Pick your Fantasy team now

The other area Emery will certainly look to improve during the coming weeks is his strength in depth up front.  

Emery likes to use a narrow 4-4-2 system and, while that shape proved successful last season, there was a heavy reliance on Ollie Watkins to provide the goal threat.  

Watkins registered significantly more shots on target than anyone else in the squad and ended the campaign as the club’s leading scorer by a margin of nine goals.  

Villa's top goalscorers 22/23
Goals Shots on target
Ollie Watkins 15 Ollie Watkins 47
Douglas Luiz 6 Leon Bailey 14
Jacob Ramsey 6 Jacob Ramsey 13
Emiliano Buendia 5 Emiliano Buendia 12
- - Douglas Luiz 12

Emery has a selection of midfield players who can chip in, but finding another prolific marksman to potentially partner Watkins will be a priority.

Also in this series

Part 2: Can Schade seize a spot in Brentford's attack?
Part 3: Can Brighton teenagers become key men?
Part 4: Will young Chelsea defenders make their mark?
Part 5: Willian deal allows Silva to now focus on defence
Part 6: Why Howe is targeting Barnes

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