With Aston Villa still catching up to most sides in the Premier League due to the Covid-19 outbreak at Bodymoor Heath at the start of January, the opportunity to further improve their chances of European football next season was dampened as a lethargic display see’s West Ham leave Villa Park with all three points.
Dean Smith made one change to his starting line-up as Anwar El Ghazi returned on the right-hand side to replace Bertrand Traore, while David Moyes handed on-loan midfielder, Jesse Lingard, his first start in a West Ham shirt.
The first half was rather uncharacteristic of Villa as the midfield was completely non-existent and struggled to deal with West Ham’s high-press up the pitch; forcing many long-balls from Emi Martinez and the entire back-line.
While the long-ball method is not a typical style of play for Dean Smith’s men, Ollie Watkins came close to opening the scoring in the 27th minute as the striker’s right footed shot from the left of the box glanced off the right post.
Likewise, Ross Barkley came close three minutes later as his left footed shot from the centre of the box missed the goal entirely following a set piece situation - Opportunities Villa would surely come rue.
Going into half-time, it was evident that Dean Smith needed to make a change to his line-up and he did just that at the start of the second half as Anwar El Ghazi was replaced by Bertrand Traore; a game to forget for the Dutch winger.
The change failed to uplift the home side as West Ham’s, Tomas Soucek, was able to capitalize on some sloppy play in the 51st minute and fired his shot into the bottom left corner of the goal, opening the scoring at Villa Park.
Moments later, David Moyes’ side were able to double their lead on the break thanks to Jesse Lingard as his left footed shot beat Emi Martinez in what is typically a routine save for the Argentinian shot-stopper.
It became evident that the game was reaching a point of damage limitation for the home side as Michael Antonio chipped the ball over Emi Martinez, but Tyrone Mings was able to produce a spectacular goal-line clearance; giving Villa a glimmer of hope moving forward.
A second Villa substitution came in the 69th minute as a frustrated Ross Barkley was replaced by Trezeguet, with the Egyptian winger running rampant to try and inspire his side to a late comeback.
Even more surprisingly, Dean Smith utilized his third and final substitution to give new recruit, Morgan Sanson, his Aston Villa debut and removing a struggling Douglas Luiz from the field of play.
The changes seemed to work in the short-term as Jack Grealish’s through ball found Ollie Watkins and the striker beat West Ham goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, with a right footed shot from the right side of the box to the centre of the goal.
Hopes for a late Villa revival were only made temporary as Jesse Lingard added another goal to his tally and killed off the game with a right footed shot from the right side of the box to the top left corner; another moment to forget for Emi Martinez as another ‘typical’ save bypassed him.
The disappointing 3-1 loss by the home side see’s Villa sit in ninth, while West Ham maintain their fifth place position.
Arsenal now make the trip to Villa Park on Saturday as Dean Smith’s mean look to get back to winning ways against a side they trashed at the Emirates back in November.
Let’s hope we see a different Villa come Saturday!
Up The Villa!