An entertaining and ultimately frustrating match saw Villa earn a much-needed point against in-form West Ham. However, the side will be disappointed they couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage down the closing stretch.

The Good
While there weren’t any true standout moments, I was encouraged by our performance. More dogged. More fluid more often, quicker, and seemingly more consistently threatening. Both Grealish and McGinn looked good: Jack was very composed, ball glued to his feet, and took us into transition well; McGinn, well, he was his usual all-action self, but really shone as an all-round player on the night. Marvelous Nakamba ultimately had a promising debut. Guilbert showed a lot of quality and commitment (that 75-yard track-back and tackle after his giveaway was fantastic). El Ghazi was direct and strong. Heaton was basically unbothered. Mings and Engels dealt with relative ease, and Mings in particular had an aggressive, vocal and very composed evening. Engels was quietly assured and effective. A second clean sheet.

The Bad
You’d have to say not capitalizing on the man advantage. No goals. Misplaced passes. Trying to play too quickly or do too much individually.

The Ugly
Mings and El Ghazi coming together. But all handbags as Grealish said after, and a sign of intensity and desire. Mings is really coming into his own as a leader, and I, for one, don’t mind him holding players responsible. Didn’t like the way it looked, but much better than not caring. Which I saw Neil Taylor saying after I wrote this.

Final Verdict
Overall, I thought that despite errors and a lack of goals, Monday’s performance was the most we’ve looked like a Premier League side so far. West Ham were coming in off a good run, have expectations, and really didn’t dominate proceedings—53% possession versus 47%. In the end, I thought we had the better chances, one forcing a good save, another just going wide of the post. The Hammers had their moments in possession, but Villa were combative and blunted most of the threat while showing some tidy passages and decisiveness moving forward. There seemed to be much more assurance and quickness of thought and action throughout the side. I also thought it was the best I’ve seen Jack and John look so far, especially at the same time. Jack was almost imperious and full of confidence. McGinn did so well in so many situations: combative, good at reading defenders and retaining possession, strong on the ball, and tireless as usual. A constant threat and very aggressive.

On the downside, as the players and Smith have said, once the Hammers went a man down, it seemed to work to our disadvantage. I agree with Dean’s assessment that we were trying too hard to make it count. At the same time, West Ham really did dig in and turn things up a notch. Full credit.

But as I mentioned above, despite looking quicker and more assured, there were some big misplaced passes, a little dawdling, too many individual efforts, and a lack of composure that kept us from getting more from the match. I’ve no doubt the players were feeling the pressure to get all three points at home, and showed just a bit too much eagerness.

So, partly situational, and partly still learning. For example, both Jota and El Ghazi are still learning that they’re not just going to be able to glide past players as they might be used to. Defenders are too good, strong, and quick at this level to pull that off very often. Jota is looking good in space, and finding it, but needs to find an outlet quickly instead of trying to dribble out of trouble. El Ghazi dribbles less, but still persists somewhat in doing too much. I like his determination, strength, speed and directness. Certainly can’t fault his full-blooded commitment in getting decked by Fabiański.…just want a little more prudence at times. Jota is also a little bit of a liability defensively. He’ll run and work, but he’s not terribly fast.

Jack raised his hand, and maybe some others did, too. You could see he was gutted at misplays and missed opportunities. No one needs to hold him to a standard. I think he does it himself. And his grace in carrying the ball out of all kinds of situations…I enjoy watching him when he’s on song.

Nakamba had up and down moments, but I think he’s much more suited to DM than Luiz has looked so far. For a first PL start, I thought he grew into the match and gave us some of what we’ve been missing.

Yes, I wonder about getting Luiz and Nakamba on the pitch at the same time, and while I understand Elmohamady replacing Jota, it might well have been the case that Hourihane should’ve been on instead of Luiz as we chased a goal.

For me, I think there were two big takeaways: 1) We are capable of playing at the necessary level, and 2) Smith’s persistence with 4-3-3 is not just stubbornness. His post-match comments are always honest and accurate, I think. He sees what’s going on, he believes in his system, and he believes that addressing our play is the key to success rather than changing to what others are doing. Based on the step-up in this performance, I can’t say I have any reason to disagree. Now of course it all depends on whether the players are fit for purpose. Most are, I think. What we need to see is more adjustment, and I’ve seen it from some more than others.

Then of course we get to goals. Wesley’s a good big man. And we almost found him a couple times, especially from Jack’s perfect cross when he got round the defense on the right. Wes comes deep, holds the ball, has a good passing range. But it’s clear that goals are going to have to come from AEG, Jack, John, Jota, Trezeguet, and Conor. Kodjia might bag a couple coming in late, and Davis will be in with a shout here and there. But lacking a speedy, small forward to torment CBs is a weakness. If said forward was also a sharpshooter, well…Everyone wants one, don’t they?

So for now, the game feels like less of a loss to me than it might do to the players. Having watched Arsenal, maybe they patch up the comedy of errors that is their defense, maybe they don’t. They’ll obviously look good attacking, and one wouldn’t want to bet on us keeping a clean sheet. At the same time, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against us finding the back of the net, either.

If Villa can get a draw or even all three, I think it would obviously do a lot to steady us. I don’t think it’s unrealistic.

Over to you.

Comments 17

  1. Well, what a night!

    Dusappointed with the result, as it was a game that we could have won, but perhaps not with the substitutions that Dean chose.

    Not happy with El Ghazi butting Mings after he was given a few words by the big man. Could easily have been a sending off. Mike Dean was very kind to us with that, and maybe the penalty shout. For sure, if it had been Kevin F, both would have gone against us..!!

    It was great to be part of a really rocking Villa Park from start to finish, but we really need to sort our game out. I thought as has already been said that Marvellous grew into the game and will be a good assett in the future.
    Like several, I was surprised with Jota being substituted by El Mohamady, surely Lansbury would have been a greater asset, and not really sure why Dean is loathe to use him. Surely, Hourihane would have been a much better choice over Luiz to replace Nkamba, and then Jack could also have been more effective and played further forward.
    Guilbert being replaced by Keinan Davis seemed to be all too late in the day. Two centre forwards after the sending off would have been a much better option, as we never had a man up the pitch to take on the ball, so West Ham could keep nocking it back in.

    West Ham were able to control things far too easily, as the Villa mid field kept over playing the ball rather than moving it on quickly when there were players in space ready to receive it. If we continue like this then Arsenal are going to take us apart.

    Cannot fault the team for effort, but much more is needed if we are to stay in the Premuership

  2. Apparently, around the time of Luis coming on, Dean had Lansbury ready too, but changed his mind and put Davis on instead.

    Just watched the whole match again, and it is interesting seeing on tv, compared to watching from the Holte End, as you see different things, and also see more clearly how things could have been done differently.
    Nothing has chsnged my overall view of the match, but I can see morely clearly the poor decisions taken by players when they have the ball, and you have time to analyze, in the same way the pundits do.

    Jack played his heart out, and you can see why some press pundits gave him 8 out of ten, but he had the opportunity on several occasions tp pass to an unmarked El Ghazi, but chose to ignore him, and ran into trouble. The chance he had to score towards the end should never have been his, as Wesley is stood almost along side him, and had a much better chance to move to the ball, but it is jack that makes the effort, and you can see that several times towards the end that Wesley is just not really making that extra effort. I would love to see a fit Kodija leading the line.

  3. H&V,

    I can see the temptation to drop El Ghazi, if Jota was a better option, but he is not. Maybe Trezeguet will replace him, and hopefully, Lansbury will replace Jota, and Nakamba did enough to keep his place, and I am happy with the rest, unless Davis takes Wesley’s place.

    We are making progress, and getting better, especially defensively. Monday’s game was the hardest match we have been in so far. Dean and his coaches will get there, and I am sure we will be fine by the next international break.

  4. Thanks JC, I agree pretty much with all of that, Maupay would have made a difference it looks.

    Thought Marv looked great once he settled and I was surprised the man with the golden left foot Conor didn’t come on, baffling unless tired from playing LB.

    Jota is the easiest man in the world to mark just show him the outside, so one footed its a surprise he doesn’t just run in a circle. Either he plays central behind Wes or only against weak LB’s. Benrahma would be Useful but has not even made the bench lately at Brentford, we might see him in Jan.

  5. Frem,

    I get your concern…Think a lot supporters share it.

    I also think there’s an odds thing at play. Wes will score again. How much? Dunno. But the odds of AEG, Jack, John, Conor or Trezeguet scoring have to be narrowing over time. Is it enough? Again, dunno.

    But since we’ve been pretty solid at the back, we might be able to score enough and accumulate the points to see us still in the hunt for safety in January.

  6. PP,

    Elmo just seemed to be a like-for-like. Keep the width, fresh legs, experience playing out there as a winger, and then having defensive qualities. Also makes it easier to take off Guilbert later.

    Lansbury and Conor versus Davis and Luiz…Yeah, tough calls. I really think Dean did not want to lose. Was willing to look for the goal, but didn’t want to change the shape/system too much given how much of a fight West Ham were putting up. So, Elmo for Jota, Luiz for Marvelous, and then a second striker at the end when he was willing to pull off what must have been a very tired Guilbert.

    Dunno that Dean is against Lansbury. He’s kept him in the frame. I could see putting him up front late. Not sure he has the pace to cover the ground required elsewhere and still be a scoring threat.

    Then again, we’ve barely seen him in the last year, so what do I know.

  7. H&V, PP…

    Yeah, I don’t think Smith has a choice. Trezeguet for Jota, as PP says, and Marvelous stays in.

    Again, I’ve no indication he’ll change, but I’ll be interested to see if Dean comes up with a different midfield/set-up to clog things up at Arsenal. Last time out, the Gunners were very narrow, at least to start.

  8. In the meantime, our girls continue their march to the top tier of the ladies Premiership, with a 6-0 win, and their fourth win in a row!!! Not bad for a newly formed team, after their summer recruitment. They mean business.

  9. I wonder what’s happened to Clark at Newcastle?
    He’s not even on the bench, is he injured?
    If not it looks like he’s going to have to get away from Bruce again.

  10. Another big game today. Arsenal have an impressive home record so it will be an incredibly difficult game. They are extremely dangerous up front.

    I think I would make changes today. I think he should start Target and Guilbert so we have pace, width and drive from the full backs. I will like to see two holding midfield players – Marvelous and Luiz in the middle. I would play 4 – 3 – 3, with Mcginn joining the holding two. Grealish – Wesley and AEG up front. Keep it tight in the first half. Arsenal generally capitulate in the second half when the fans start getting on the players backs.

    Wesley has to have a big game today, stay on his feet and create problems for the vulnerable Arsenal defence. We need to give Wesley time and support. He will come good. He has the attributes – he needs 10 games to adjust to the league.

    Jack looked a lot more confident against West Ham – but he has to release the ball quicker.

    Our defence was great against West Ham. Long may it continue.

    Up the Villa

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