Unai Emery has praised John McGinn for his commitment and attitude during Aston Villa’s remarkable turnaround over the past five months.
Only Arsenal and Man City have picked up more points than Emery’s side since took charge of his first Villa game back in November, and captain McGinn has been a driving force behind the club’s improved form. The Scotland international has been asked to perform a different role to what he was playing under former boss Steven Gerrard, as he now plays in an advanced midfield role off the right under Emery.
McGinn has put in several man of the match displays in an eight-match unbeaten run, where Villa have only dropped two points to climb the table into sixth place with seven matches left to play this term. Emery’s appointment has been nothing short of transformational and he has clearly improved the players he inherited from Gerrard last year.
Asked if he is surprised how quickly his players have taken on his methods, Emery said: “Of course, I tried to understand them before I arrived here. Then knowing them face-to-face, knowing them training every day and playing matches. It is not a surprise.
“You can’t change completely one player. But if you can improve five to 10 per cent for each one, everything is getting better. The players have to believe and be demanding themselves. That is the key. It is not a surprise for me.
“For example, in the case of John McGinn, I only wanted to watch him play and show his skills, character and the personality he shows here. He is every day loving, every day committed to training and being positive. He’s a good player.
“I don’t know now if he improves more or less but of course I am very happy because if I am asking if he can play midfielder? Yes. Can you play as a winger? Yes. Can you play as a No.10? Of course.
“That is the way and then it is about trying to support him and help him with my experiences. But they are good players and John McGinn is one example. We want to be demanding but consistent in our focus.
“I know for me the improvement comes when you are focused in training every day. The commitment to hard work is what I want to build here. At the moment they are following it 100 per cent but not just for me, also for the coaches and for themselves.
“They were not happy when they were at the bottom and in football, like life, you have to try and get better in your work every day. If you want to get better and to be in the middle of the table, the top 10 or the position we are in now, you have to know the way.”