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Aston Villa manager Unai Emery and captain John McGinn have said it is too early to call them title challengers despite their superb run of form continuing with victory over Arsenal to move within two points of leaders Liverpool.
The results mean they have beaten last season’s top two and have made their best start to a top-flight season since 1980-81, the year they last won the title.
But boss Emery has dismissed title talk until spring.
“I will speak again when we are in game 30 to 32 and if we are in the same position as now then maybe I can speak about it,” Emery told Sky Sports after beating his former employers.
“At the start we are not a contender, it is only game 16. We are in [the top four] and must try to keep it.”
Villa took an early lead through captain John McGinn and held on, despite some late Video Assistant Referee (VAR) drama, to record a club-record 15th straight home league win in front of a raucous Villa Park.
“I’m banning the T-word,” McGinn added. “It’s game week 16 so there’s a long way to go.
“We respect everyone round about us who have been in this position for years. We’re newbies – if we can keep it up, we’ll see.”
Even if the club is being coy, talk of a title is testament to how far Villa have come in recent times.
Thirteen months ago, former Villa boss Steven Gerrard was sacked with the side outside of the relegation zone on goals scored.
He was replaced by Emery, who has won 26 of his 41 Premier League games since, one more than he managed in his 51 games managing Arsenal in 2018 and 2019.
Moreover, Villa’s total of 24 Premier League victories in 2023 is only bettered by Manchester City’s 26. It is also level with the club record for a calendar year which was last achieved in 1931.
“These are exciting times [for Aston Villa fans],” former England midfielder Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports.
“They’ve had to watch some bad teams and some bad experiences. This is a big football club and it’s great to see them doing so well.”
Asked if Villa could win the title, ex-Birmingham City and Arsenal midfielder Karen Carney added: “The form that they’re in, [beating] Man City and now beating Arsenal, the fans have every right to think something’s happening.”
However, six-time Premier League winner Phil Neville was not so optimistic about Villa’s title chances.
“No, I don’t think they’re in for the title,” he told NBC Sports. “But after 16 games they’ve been the most impressive, consistent team.
“Today was the performance of the season from any team in the Premier League.”
So, what do you think? Are Aston Villa genuine title contenders?