It came at a cost, but Villa prevailed over Crystal Palace 2-1 last weekend with solid performances from Matty Cash and John McGinn. It would be all good and well moving on to this week if not for the swashbuckling talents of Cheick Doucoure. The Palace midfielder dispatched Boubacar Kamara and one half of Villa’s double pivot is now sidelined for the short term. That, along with left-back and less potentially Ollie Watkins’ striking partner or number 10 to his number 9, will be up for discussion this weekend.
On deck for this weekend is West Ham United, who sit alongside Everton on the “they really shouldn’t be here” (and as I’m writing, Everton have managed to be proactive about circumstances) side of the relegation battle. The Hammers recent form is sluggish, dropping two out of the last three league matches (0-4 away to Brighton and Hove Albion, a 4-0 London Stadium win over Nottingham Forest, and a 0-2 loss at the creatively named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium).
Players to look out for include, but aren’t limited to Declan Rice in midfield, former Villa and all around claret and blue aficionado, Danny Ings, at striker, and attacking midfielder, Jarrod Bowen. West Ham sit 18th in the table to Villa’s
This week will see at least one change to the lineup with the loss of Boubacar Kamara. The easiest solution is to replace a holding midfielder with another holding midfielder, that being Calum Chambers. Another option would be to slide John McGinn over to the holding position, put Jacob Ramsey on the right where McGinn was, and play Emi Buendia on the left. Ollie Watkins would partner with Leon Bailey, Jhon Duran, or Bertrand Traore. It could work, but I don’t like moving McGinn around after he played so well last week. That gives us a midfield of Douglas Luiz and Calum Chambers, with Jacob Ramsey to their right and John McGinn to their left.
In defense, Emi Martinez will man the net with a center-back partnership of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza. At right-back, we’ll see Matty Cash and at left-back, there’s a bit of discussion to be had. I like Alex Moreno, perhaps a bit more than Lucas Digne, but given the midfield shake-up, I’m feeling a bit skittish here. Digne feels like a safer option given circumstances and I’m giving him the slightest of edges (I’ve re-written twice going back and forth), but I would be neither shocked nor displeased if Moreno gets his second consecutive start.
Ollie Watkins will play striker to Emi Buendia’s 10. There’s a chance Unai Emery goes sans-Buendia. Bertrand Traore (I’d like it, but it’s not happening), Leon Bailey (more likely), or Jhon Duran (you’d love to see it, and who knows?), are all available. But given a scenario of playing either Emi Buendia or Leon Bailey, I’m playing Buendia. You could bench Ramsey and start Emi on the left to make room for two up top, but I like Emi at the 10. Sorry, Leon.
Looking at the pattern of home league play for West Ham, they have a rhythm of three bad results (August losses to Manchester City, Brighton and Hove Albion, and a Tottenham Hotspur draw), followed by three good (wins over Wolves, Fulham, and Bournemouth), than bad (losses to Crystal Palace, Leicester City, and Brentford), than good again (wins over Everton and Forest with a Chelsea draw). As luck would have it, we’re due for three lacklustre home performances from the Hammers. Villa narrowly escapes with a 2-1 victory.