West Ham's discipline could be Aston Villa's undoing

Warren Little

Despite being the more talented side, Aston Villa's propensity for mental errors and West Ham's skill at tending to avoid them could very well mean all the difference.

I'm an Aston Villa fan. That comes in handy, considering that I write for an Aston Villa blog. In general, I look forward to watching Villa play; they're my team, after all, and even though they're not perfect they're generally pretty fun to watch these days. But a 38 game season is a very long season, and it's inevitable that some games will be more heavily anticipated than others. And then there are some games which, to be completely honest, don't inspire much in the way of excitement. In possibly related news, Aston Villa are away to West Ham this afternoon.

It's likely that you're familiar with West Ham, as well as their style of play. Say what you will about the tenants of Big Sam's tactical approach, but at least it's an ethos; the Hammers always have a plan, and they generally execute it quite well. They're a team that makes you beat them, and that's something deserving of respect. And to be fair, sometimes it all comes together and they can be pretty impressive to watch; their stunning 3-0 victory at White Hart Lane in early October is the most recent example of this. But significantly more often, watching West Ham play your team is an exercise in frustration.

West Ham is organized, physical, opportunistic and very good at what they do. Remember the Ale McLeish days at Villa? Picture that, but with a more talented squad and a manager that actually knows what it is that he is doing. I have a great deal of respect for Sam Allardyce (though I do love making fun of him, for reasons that should be obvious) and I do not take West Ham lightly as an opponent. I just really do not enjoy watching them play. And considering Villa's preferred approach, I don't have much hope that this will be the most enthralling game of football ever played. But since they are going to play it and I am going to watch it, it would be nice if Villa managed a win.

That's an achievable goal. Despite some frustrating results, Villa's actually looked pretty solid in their last two games against very respectable opposition. They've just managed to let themselves down in very Villa-esque ways. An inability to convert quality chances has been their undoing, and though that could continue being the case for the rest of eternity, it's more likely that if they can continue to create they'll begin scoring goals once again. The more worrisome problems have been at the back, and West Ham has attacking talent good enough to make that a real concern once again; Ravel Morrison and Ricardo Vaz Te have looked like the players they were supposed to be all along, and given Villa's myriad injury problems in defense it's tough to feel too confident that they'll manage to shut down the home side entirely. But this is a West Ham team that's managed just eight goals all season; take out the 3-0 over Spurs, and they're scoring roughly once every 145 minutes.

Unfortunately for Villa, this could very well come down to who manages to screw up less. Villa's got a slight edge in talent, as well as the best outfield player by far on either side. But they're significantly more mistake prone than West Ham, and in the end that's could end up being the difference. It's still far too early to worry about table position, but Villa's now gone over a month without a win in the Premier League. They need three points and they need them pretty badly. But getting three points from West Ham is never as easy as it seems it ought to be.

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