The dream of bringing European football back to Villa Park remains well and truly alive at the halfway part of the 2020-2021 Premier League season. With Aston Villa holding their resolve by the finest of margins against Southampton on Saturday in a 1-0 victory, the focus for Dean Smith’s men now switches to West Ham United. Let’s take a look at what Villans can expect ahead of Wednesday.
West Ham Threat
Despite finishing the 2019-2020 season in 16th place with 39 points and conflicts between ownership and fans publicized for all to see, David Moyes has miraculously turned a struggling outfit into a potential European contender. The East London outfit struggled for a true secondary goal threat last season, with Robert Snodgrass and Andriy Yarmolenko tying for 5 goals a piece. Fast forward to modern day and the Hammers already have three players that have equaled or surpassed the aforementioned mark - Tomas Soucek (7), Michail Antonio (5), and Jarrod Bowen (5).
Moreover, their xG (Expected goals) per 90 minutes has risen from 1.22 throughout the entirety of the 2019-2020 season to 1.36 xG per 90 minutes after 21 games. With this in mind, it clearly tells us that Moyes’ men are not only getting higher up the pitch more often; they have also become a more clinical side when it matters most. The addition of marauding defender, Vladimir Coufal, and the collective duo of Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen now settling into Premier League life has West Ham posing as a different proposition to what many fans are typically accustomed to.
This suggests that Villa will need to be mindful in how they attempt to commit bodies going forward, as West Ham will always be looking to exploit the all-English back four.
European Dream To Continue?
As Aston Villa near the end of a six game stretch within an 18 day period, the accumulation of clean sheets this season has been nothing short of remarkable.
Out of their last four games, Villa has snatched two clean sheets against Newcastle and Southampton, respectively; raising the tally to 10 clean sheets on the season.
Villa should be encouraged by the defensive improvement moving forward as Matty Cash ranks second in interceptions with 45, while Tyrone Mings sits in 10th place with 81 clearances.
Despite giving up the lead twice in a 3-2 loss to Burnley at Turf Moor and not portraying the most convincing of victories over Southampton, an xG per 90 minutes of 1.71 leaves many Villa fans comfortably believing that the players can create a considerable number of chances no matter the opposition.
David Moyes has confirmed that Michael Antonio is fine to play on Wednesday, while Jesse Lingard is set to be in the squad for what would be his first appearance in a West Ham shirt.
Dean Smith may look to make slight tweaks to his starting 11, considering Arsenal will make the trip to Villa Park on Saturday. New recruit, Morgan Sanson, is yet to make his debut for his new team and will eagerly be looking to make his mark as soon as possible.
Kortney Hause will be out of action for four to six week with a foot injury.