Moussa Diaby reflects on his first Aston Villa season and outlines Ollie Watkins wish

Moussa Diaby is pleased with how quickly he has adapted to playing for Aston Villa under Unai Emery
Moussa Diaby is pleased with how quickly he has adapted to playing for Aston Villa under Unai Emery -Credit:Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Aston Villa winger Moussa Diaby admits he needed a period of adaptation in the Premier League before he could rediscover the form he showed at the start of the season.

After recording five goal contributions in his first seven league games, Diaby only bagged one goal in the next 12. But since coming off the bench against Luton last month and setting up Lucas Digne's late winner, he then scored in the 4-0 win over Ajax, made the assist for Nicolo Zaniolo’s equaliser at West Ham and also had a hand in both of the goals against Wolves.

The 24-year-old scooped Villa's player of the month award for March and is looking to build on his progress in recent weeks before the season is out. Diaby spoke to the media ahead of the club's Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg against Lille as he returns to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy for the first time since losing 5-1 with PSG back in 2019.

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"It is true it was a hard defeat and I expect a tough game tomorrow as well," Diaby said. "I know this squad. Every year they have great players. I expect a difficult game, with a very compact block. I want to reach qualification.

"I know the Premier League is a very tough league. You have to adapt to this league. I had a difficult period at the time but for the first season I think it is rather positive. I am looking to improve and get a better performance for next season.

"I had a good start of the season. It is a good squad with many good players. It is up to the coach to decide but I think I have adapted well to this league.

"When I signed here I was here for the project. It was clearly to be part of the top four and the Champions League. I knew we were going to play in the Conference League. We want to go far in all competitions. If we can qualify for the Champions League it would be great."

Speaking of Ollie Watkins, Diaby said: "To be honest I did not quite look at the players. I just wanted to join the club for the project and the history of the club. I had heard about him. He is a great striker, he scores a lot, is a fox in the box and is decisive. I hope I can help him reach his objectives."

Compatriot Lucas Digne came through the youth ranks at Lille before departing for PSG in the summer of 2013. He made a total of 62 appearances for Les Douges.

"It is true he started playing here and he told me about it," Diaby said. "He knows it is going to be a complicated game tomorrow. We saw in the first game they have a great coach. They have their fans behind them and really want to win. He has good memories of this squad."

Villa come into the game on the back of a 2-0 win over Arsenal and Diaby was asked whether the result can be used as a springboard in the final weeks of the campaign.

"It could be an advantage but a disadvantage at the same time," the winger said. "We could play but we have our legs. They had time to have a rest but nothing replaces playing. If you want to win you need to play."

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