Match Preview: Aston Villa vs West Ham

It’s been a tough start to life back in the Premier League for Villa so far this season. One win and three losses – although one of these would have been a draw, had we not seen one of the worst refereeing decisions in Premier League history – sees Villa currently sitting in 18th place, just inside the relegation zone.

It’s no time for panic though. One win would see us significantly climb up the table and would supply the team with a lot of confidence. And what a time it would be to get it!

Buoyed by our last home game against Everton and keen to put things right after a tough test last time out against Crystal Palace, this may be the game where our season properly starts. Another win would go a long way to easing any growing concerns and with consecutive games against Burnley (H), Norwich (A) and Brighton (H) coming up, it would be great to go into that run with a bit more confidence.

However, it will be very difficult. West Ham come into this game off the back of two victories (three including the EFL Cup win against Newport) and they look like a side who are really starting to click. They made good signings in the Summer, none more so than Sébastien Haller who will no doubt cause the Villa defence problems, and they should be looking to challenge for the European places.

West Ham beat Norwich 2-0 in their last game, with goals from Haller and Yarmolenko.

Previous Meetings

Our head-to-head record against West Hams reads as follows: P – 110; W – 38, D – 32; L – 40. So, historically, it’s been very even between the two sides. In our last 10 meetings, we have won 4, lost 3 and drawn 3.

Our last match against the Hammers, on 2nd February 2016, ended in a 2-0 away defeat, with Michail Antonio and Cheikhou Kouyaté scoring second half goals, after Jordan Ayew was sent off in the 17th minute. However, it is worth noting that our team that day included Mark Bunn in goal, Richards and Lescott in defence, Bacuna in midfield and Agbonlahor as the lone striker.

It was only less than a year earlier though that we last tasted victory against West Ham, on 9th May 2015. A first half Tom Cleverley goal, gave us the victory, during a brief revival under then manager Tim Sherwood. That day, Christian Benteke was a constant problem for the West Ham defence, Grealish and Delph both offered a lot in terms of creativity and Ron Vlaar was a rock in the heart of defence. What a difference a year made!

Tom Cleverley was the only goal scorer the last time Villa beat West Ham, as they ran out 1-0 winners.

Opposition’s View

Our opposition’s view this week comes from popular West Ham Twitter page, West Ham Central (@WestHam_Central).

Q. What do you make of your start to the season?
I’m really pleased with our start of the season. Everybody was having a meltdown after the game against Manchester City but we always get thrashed at home against Manchester City so I was calm. We’ve drawn one and won two since and we probably would have beaten Brighton if Haller and Anderson were fit.

Q. You have two former Villa players in your squad, in Robert Snodgrass and Carlos Sanchez, who have both played a part in many of your games this season. How do West Ham fans rate these players and should we expect to see much of them at Villa Park on Monday?
Robert Snodgrass is loved here…he isn’t a starter but West Ham fans love a player with workrate…a player who will chase every ball and not give up. Sanchez however, I think you know what he’s like…to be fair, he played well against Newport but he’s never convincing when on the ball.

Q. How do you rate your chances of challenging the top 6 this year? Is Pellegrini under pressure if this doesn’t happen?
I said before the season kicked off that this is a huge opportunity for one of us, Everton, Wolves or Leicester to break into the top six as Manchester United and Chelsea aren’t looking up to their normal standards and any of us four could probably match them man-to-man at the moment. I personally don’t think we will get in the top six but you never know. Pellegrini will be under no pressure to get us into the top six as I don’t think that’s a fair target to judge him on.

Q. What would you consider to be the biggest strengths in your team this year? Are there any particular players that Villa should be wary of?
Our main strength in our team is the way we can hit teams on the counter attack with Lanzini, Anderson, Yarmolenko, Haller and co. Villa should be worried about the surging runs from our left back Arthur Masuaku who is having an outstanding season so far and is ranked as the best performing left back in Europe’s top five leagues according to whoscored. You should also be wary of our front four, for obvious reasons.

The surging runs of Arthur Masuaku are something that Villa will need to be wary of.

Q. What formation do you think you’ll employ against us and what is your predicted starting lineup? Is there an area of weakness that Villa should look to exploit?
I imagine we will play a 4231 and our lineup should be unchanged from the Norwich win: Fabianski; Fredericks Diop Ogbonna Masuaku; Rice Noble (c); Yarmolenko Lanzini Anderson; Haller. Our weak area is probably left-back (still). Masuaku is absolutely sublime going forward but sometimes he forgets that he has to defend too! He seems to be working on it though as the weeks go by with him and Anderson working together to cover each other.

Q. What is your opinion on Villa and how do you expect the match to go/score prediction?
At the start of the season, I wasn’t sure what to think about Aston Villa. You went crazy in the transfer window and everyone was comparing you to Fulham but I like some of the players you brought in. Wesley and Trezeguet are players that I had watched before and rated but your best capture was Tom Heaton who I think is an outstanding goalkeeper and he will win you so many points this season. Dean Smith is a good young manager and John McGinn is my favourite Villa player (I don’t think you will hang onto McGinn for very long though). I think Villa might edge the possession but West Ham will hit you on the counter a lot and I don’t think your defence is strong enough to keep us out. My prediction is Aston Villa 1-2 West Ham. Here’s to a good game!

Our Prediction

I’m under no illusions as to how difficult this game is going to be, against a West Ham side filled with good attacking players. In particular, Haller and Felipe Anderson worry me and I think that those two will cause us a lot of problems.

However, at the end of the season I expect to see West Ham in a similar position to Everton and we were brilliant against the Toffees. Sure, West Ham are stronger up front but against Everton we managed to defend strongly, nullify their threats and then attack with purpose when we had the chance to and I expect us to do the same again.

We were great against Everton in our last home game, so more of the same this time out please!

Plus it’s a Monday night, under the lights at a full and hopefully raucous Villa Park, which is going to be a difficult place for any team to come. I think the players will be right up for this game and will be keen to show a massive improvement on their performance in the game against Palace. Therefore, I am going to be optimistic and predict a Villa win!

I’m going for Aston Villa 2-1 West Ham.

Let us know your prediction for the game on Twitter.

By Daniel Horton (@danno1407)

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