As the clocks went back one hour, this match was therefore set under the lights of Villa Park. Unfortunately, the scenic view was the highlight of this Halloween horror show. Two seasons ago, West Ham and Villa were battling to stay in the premier league. Now West Ham is in Europe and on an upward trend. In contrast, Villa, who was also seemingly on an upward trend, have spiralled since the famous victory at Old Trafford a few weeks ago and look like they’re on a sinking ship teetering on the brink of relegation. So what were the five things we learnt from our fourth defeat in a row?
1. Disorganised, dishevelled and devoid of ideas!
I watched this match with pure disgust, which is hard to say as a die-hard Villa fan who loves this club dearly and wouldn’t usually criticise a performance so harshly. But from the moment we kicked off, and Matt Targett kicked a long ball into touch, it set the tone for this meagre performance.
There seemed to be no structure, certain players looking low on confidence and a real lack of commitment in winning first balls, second balls. Creativity was non-existent, and apart from our goal, which was nicely worked, it was a profoundly disheartening display. To be in awe of West Ham is a sickening feeling. Perhaps this is a sense of self-entitlement due to the size and history of our club, but it’s also realistic with the owners, investment and strategic plan we have in place to expect to be challenging the likes of the East Londoners. However, on current form, not a chance!
2. VAR against West Ham
It does seem when we come up against West Ham; VAR goes against us. Firstly last season, when Watkins had a marginal offside goal ruled out in the last minute, which would have salvaged a point. This time around, it was Konsa on the wrong end of the VAR decision. Perhaps it was the right outcome to send him off, and we have to face the reality that we were second best at this juncture in the game anyway, but the amount of time it took to come to this conclusion was outrageous.
It must have been at least a good two minutes before VAR came up on the big screen. The gap for fans to wait this long without any communication was unacceptable. I’m assuming they were looking at it, but the conduct around this was disgraceful. When it rains, it pours and right now, it feels like cow dung is emanating from the clouds. Ultimately when you don’t put in the effort and quality, this is inevitable.
3. Cash is the diamond in the rough
As hard as it is to take positives out of this game, and there were a couple, surprisingly. Nakamba being the other with his incredible effort and fight for the cause, the one that stands out has to be the display of Matty Cash. If the majority of the team came even close to putting in the endeavour and quality he showed, we would have easily come out of this match with something tangible. Our goal came from his sheer drive and determination. It felt at that point, albeit unmerited, we could have pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
He didn’t deserve to be on the losing team, and to put in such an immaculate display with no reward must have felt like a punch to the gut. All I can say, Matty, is the fans empathise, and hopefully, the rest of the squad can take on his example for the trip to Southampton on Friday night.
4. Mings dropped
Seeing Tyrone Mings, our club captain, starting from the substitutes bench, my initial feeling was that this could be a defining moment in Smiths tenure. Maybe it will be but not the way I envisioned. Kourtney Hause, who many Villa fans were calling for, doesn’t have the ability at this level to pass through the lines of the opposition. His defensive ability in this match overall was pretty good, and every time he was in a one to one situation, he dealt with it very well. But in the modern game, this is not enough.
I would expect to see Mings back for the next match; with Konsa suspended, this will surely be the case. If I were to choose, I would bring Axel next to him, but it’s a close call as neither Hause nor Tuanzebe is filling me with confidence right now. Fifteen clean sheets were kept last season; this looks a long way away in this campaign.
5. Smith under the cosh
After the Wolves game, I wrote about how I was very much ‘Smith In’. I still entirely stick by this statement, but my concern for him has grown. When we lost by the same margin as Chelsea, there was a sense of optimism and positivity after the game. It was the complete antithesis after this match. The direction the club has taken on the pitch is one of being in the abyss.
It seems pretty apparent to stipulate, but if we get nothing out of the next two games against Southampton and Brighton, respectively, things could turn very, very badly. In between those games is another International break. That’s why I feel it is paramount we don’t lose against the Saints; otherwise, our very ambitious owners may be having a lot of thinking time, to the detriment of Smith and his coaching staff.
Smith has had his difficulties, but this feels like it could be a pivotal moment, potentially a step too far. Fingers crossed it won’t be, and he, in turn, does an Alex Ferguson and goes on to cement legendary status with us!
Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read this piece. If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment or message me on my Twitter handle, @Villa4LifeAlex.
Until next time, this is Alex signing off, UTV!
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