Going away to West Ham, who have been in fantastic form, was always going to be tough and taking away our losing spell, at any stage of the season you’d usually be happy coming away with a point.
But...it just doesn’t quite seem that way this time. Not because we deserved more, or it was pivotal to our entire season that we get a win. No, it’s that we were so comprehensively outplayed by a West Ham team playing below their usual standard. In terms of performance and strategy, we picked up where we left off. Nothing significant changed there from the 6 prior defeats. We still struggled to get any grip on the game and relied entirely on West Ham’s poor finishing and unlikely individual heroics to get a result.
One Moment: Villa steal point through late heroics
Nathan Baker, my man of the match, had a few crucial last ditch moments that probably prevented them scoring earlier. Vlaar also contributed to just about keeping the Hammers out. But it was Brad Guzan’s saves in the dying minutes that meant we left with a point - not a 7th straight defeat.
Andy Carroll was introduced in a point of the game where we had abandoned all hope or attempt to get into their half. Or keep the ball. We were clinging on for dear life whilst they stuck the ball in the box time after time. I thought "eventually they’ll score" for the entire game. Sakho and co missed time and time again. But when Carroll came on, that was another huge aerial weapon. Lambert’s solution was to introduce Ciaran Clark. You may remember previous encounters between Clark and Carroll being quite disturbing. Particularly the time when he completely overwhelmed him in Newcastle’s 6-0 thrashing, a game in which the other West Ham sub Nolan also got 2 goals.
Sure enough, Carroll got his head to it twice pretty much unchallenged. One was relatively straightforward for Guzan. The other was a brilliant reaction stop - getting a strong hand to the ball and clearing it away from the mass of players surrounding him. Brad hasn’t been quite as heroic lately but showed everyone that he has definitely still got it.
We were very fortunate to get the point. On another day they would’ve won by a couple. The losing streak has ended, but it’s still 1 point from 7 games and 1 goal in 7 games. Play like that against Southampton and it will be straight back to losing ways.
Paul. Mr Lambert. You have to do something different. We are currently the worst team in the league, but you do nothing proactive to try to change things up. There are players on the bench (or in the stands in the case of Jack Grealish) twiddling their thumbs. What was the point in strengthening the squad over the summer if you aren’t even going to try to use it?