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Villama Preview: Aston Villa v West Ham United

With Michail Antonio and a rabidly in-form West Ham United making the trip to Villa Park on Sunday, Dean Smith’s Aston Villa will look to steer the ship in the right direction after three consecutive losses.

Last week, we established that Arsenal are doing rather well for themselves as of late and Aston Villa clearly have some work to do. I could dive a little deeper into that, but it’s Halloween and I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun. This week, our Villans take on West Ham United and prospects are equally daunting, though hope is on the horizon in the form of a potential formation change to the familiar 4-3-3 system.

The immediate thought that springs from that fountain is Leon Bailey. The winger has played in chunks this season and had injury issues, but it’s realistic to expect him to start on Sunday. Elsewhere on the Villa team sheet, the back four should feature Matt Target at left-back and Matty Cash on the right, with Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza between the two. In midfield, the familiar trio of affable meatball John McGinn, Douglas Luiz, and Jacob Ramsey should feature.

The attacking three is where things could go a few different directions, with the only caveat being that Leon Bailey must start if he’s fit enough to do so. Murmurs of Ollie Watkins playing on the left wing have been around all season and he did play in the position in last week’s horror show. It’s among the most likely, with Danny Ings playing striker and Bailey starting on the right.

Arsenal v Aston Villa - Premier League
Should Ollie Watkins or Danny Ings start up front on Sunday?
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

My personal preference would be Leon Bailey at left wing, Watkins or Ings in the middle, and Bertrand Traore on the right. Replace Traore with Emi Buendia at right wing and it’s one of the more feasible options. Emi Martinez remains in goal after returning home due to a family matter.

West Ham are a team in form at the moment, sitting fourth in the standings — winning two of their last three league matches (1-0 over Spurs, 1-0 at Everton, and a 2-1 loss to Brentford) and knocking Manchester City out of the League Cup earlier this week. Players to keep an eye on include Declan Rice in midfield, Michail Antonio at striker, with six goals on the season thus far, and Pablo Fornals at left midfield following an impressive showing in the 1-0 victory over Spurs.

PREDICTION: This is going to be a tough one for Aston Villa to pull off, but the switch to 4-3-3 formation and all that comes with it (Leon Bailey among others) provides a glimmer of hope. I think Villa are absolutely capable of pulling off this upset — they’re talented enough, but things need to settle after a few rough outings. A 2-1 loss that provides more silver linings than despair could be on the table.