Leon Bailey situation clarified as Unai Emery explains 'bizarre' Aston Villa substitution
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Unai Emery has reassured Leon Bailey's substitution during the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United was for tactical reasons – not because of an injury concern.
The change seemed bizarre at the time as Bailey was one of Villa's biggest threats throughout the game and notched the assist for Douglas Luiz's equaliser. The men in claret and blue had more possession and created far more chances, with Bailey proving to be a dangerman on the right wing once again.
If a winning goal was to come from anywhere, it would've been from the flanks. But Emery decided to take off Bailey with about 20 minutes to go, replacing him with Youri Tielemans. Villa didn't look as threatening afterward but the switch was necessary, Emery believes, with Bailey's sub a knock-on impact from Boubacar Kamara's premature exit.
“After the injury of Kamara, I decided to play Diaby with Bailey. Bailey he did a very big effort but when I was thinking to protect in the middle with Tielemans, I decided to play with Moussa on the right," Emery explained to Birmingham World.
"This is a tactical change and of course, the way we are trying to get of Bailey is being fantastic. Hopefully he can continue improving and keeping being strong and progressively better," Emery clarified.
It may not have appeared so in the moment as the equaliser was scored in the immediate aftermath, but what appeared to be a knee injury for Kamara came at a very inconvenient time for Villa. Emery was put in a difficult position and he was forced to change his system entirely, making the task of winning the game trickier.
Not only did the Villans fail to gain the desired victory on the night, but United were merciless to win it in the 86th minute via a header from a substitute of their own, Scott McTominay. The midfielder towered above a limp Matty Cash to score a clinical header and break Villa hearts.
The gap between the two teams is now merely five points as the battle for the UEFA Champions League spots intensifies.