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Bailey seals win after Luiz double and Watkins opener

Bailey seals win after Luiz double and Watkins opener
Bailey seals win after Luiz double and Watkins opener

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There was a moment last year when Leon Bailey left the pitch at Villa Park disconsolate, and in floods of tears.

After missing an open goal against Wolves, it seemed to perfectly capture Bailey’s Aston Villa career in a microcosm, as a player with obvious quality yet unable to produce consistency.

Now Bailey leaves the field to standing ovations, and the transformation in the £25 million signing has been remarkable after emerging as a key figure in Unai Emery’s Champions League mission.

Bailey was electric here against Nottingham Forest and the turnaround in his performances provides further evidence of the effect Emery has on individual players.

He terrorised Forest’s makeshift left-back Moussa Niakhate in the first half, attacking with speed and trickery and ending the game with a goal and an assist.

Villa are one of the Premier League’s great entertainers and Bailey is at the forefront of their thrilling performances, thoroughly deserving of his new contract which was signed last week.

“Bailey has been more consistent at home and there is still work to do away, but we are working with him,” said Emery.

“He has been positive and is using his qualities through the team. Leon is getting better and his progress has been very important as he’s scoring goals and assisting. I will keep pushing him to be more consistent, especially away from home.”

This was only Villa’s first home win of 2024, after a recent mini-wobble, and takes them five points clear of Tottenham, who are in fifth place and do not play this weekend.

Though there is a chance of fifth place being enough to secure Champions League football for English teams next season, Villa remain in a decent position despite a number of injuries.

England international Ollie Watkins now has 14 goals and 10 assists this season, taking him level with Mohamed Salah for goal involvements (24).

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