October proved to be a terrifying month for Dean Smith and Aston Villa as they failed to pick up a single point in all four of their games.
Villa fans were growing more and more concerned about the direction their team was going in, with the pressure beginning to mount on Dean Smith. This latest hammering on Halloween has not helped, and now the fan base is left divided by the question on many Villa fans’ minds; has Dean Smith taken this team as far as he can?
WHAT WENT DOWN?
Villa Park welcomed their heroes back to the pitch for the first time since their crushing defeat to Wolves. Anticipation and concern was the overwhelming feeling amongst the stands as fans knew West Ham’s form was at a complete parallel to that of Aston Villa’s. There were many conversations about Smith’s bold team selection as he dropped the club captain Tyrone Mings. He also left out the likes of Danny Ings and Douglas Luiz due to suspected injuries and illnesses. The changes filled Villa fans with hope as it suggested that a welcome change of formation was ahead after a few poor showings under the five at the back.
Following a minute’s silence for Remembrance, the game got underway, and West Ham started as the more attacking team with a Said Benrhama shot which failed to trouble Emi Martinez. Shortly after, West Ham academy product Ben Johnson wasn’t picked up by either Leon Bailey or Matt Targett, and he’s effort from just inside the box found its way into the corner of the net. Villa fans were left frustrated and the early goal set a down-beat atmosphere for the rest of the game. Villa needed to answer back and they needed to do it sooner rather than later.
That is exactly what Villa did as Emi Buendia dribbled effortlessly through the West Ham defence and passed the ball into the box where Leon Bailey missed it. Still, the ball rolled into the path of Watkins, who powerfully struck it into the net after a touch from Fabianski.
Villa was level and had the crowd back on side once again until another piece of poor defending, this time courtesy of Ashley Young, who left Rice wide open outside of the box. Rice had all the time in the world to place his shot into the back of the net and past Martinez, who in my opinion should be doing better.
The second half began, and a misplaced pass from Nakamba allowed Fornals to break, but Kortney Hause managed to slow down the attack with a questionable challenge which could have seen him sent off. Shortly after the challenge, Ezri Konsa bought down Jarrod Bowen. After a lengthy VAR check Konsa was sent off as the challenge was deemed to be last man despite Ashley Young covering Konsa. Villa fans were felt hard done by, and the atmosphere turned hostile once again.
The referee let Villa down once again when Fornals’ horrific challenge was only punished with a yellow card, and Nakamba was forced to head to the touchline despite Fornals receiving a booking. This led to West Ham breaking with ease as Bowen’s shot was saved by Martinez but only into the feet of Fornals, who slotted it into a virtually open net.
The ball ended up in the back of the net yet again for West Ham when Lazini played a pass across the Villa defence to Bowen, who turned from a provider into a scorer as he calmly slotted the ball into another empty net.
Villa now sits just three points outside of the relegation zone, not having picked up a point since their defeat of Manchester United a month ago.
Emi Martinez – Out of the four goals West Ham scored I believe Martinez is only at fault for one. He made some good stops but really should have done better for the second goal and had he done so the game may have turned out differently but as they say, no one’s perfect. – 5/10
Matty Cash – the Polish Cafu was arguably our only attacking threat throughout the game and was hindered massively when we went down to ten men as he was a lot more defensive. One of two players who could leave Villa Park with their heads held high. Matty is rapidly turning into a fan favourite at Villa Park – 7/10
Kortney Hause – Hause did well in his aerial battles against Antonio and put in a stable performance when forced to play as the right sided centre back instead of his favoured left side. However Hause’s passing left a lot to be desired and the lump balls up top were not working and we gave the ball away far too much. As well as this, he was very fortunate to get away without a red card following his challenge on Fornals – 4/10
Ezri Konsa – Another quiet performance from Konsa who hasn’t seemed himself the last few games. He was wrongly sent off which really damaged Villa. It’s becoming crucial that Konsa finds his form again and helps to secure that defence because it seems that when Konsa plays well the rest of the defence also plays well – 4/10
Matt Targett – Not only against West Ham, but for many games this season, Targett hasn’t been anywhere near good enough. He has been slow to react and slow to close down and today it cost us specifically with the first goal. Targett needs to step up his game to the level he was at last season otherwise it could be a very long season for the full back – 4/10
Jacob Ramsey – it would be unfair of me to rank Ramsey as he had very little time on the pitch before he was taken off injured early on in the game. However the time that he was on the pitch he seemed solid enough and again I’m looking forward to seeing what he can bring to this team in the remainder of the season. – NA
John McGinn – I think that it was fair to say that McGinn didn’t have his greatest game in midfield but the willingness to get stuck in that McGinn provides to that eleven means he is one of the first names on the team sheet for me. Specifically against West Ham though, I thought that McGinn struggled and dropped one of his worst performances of the season – 4/10
Marvellous Nakamba – A big topic of debate within Villa supporters is about how important Nakamba is too the team. Personally I believe he is one of the more important players in the squad. His ability to break up play in the middle of the park is up there with the best in the team and he bailed out the team on more than one occasion against the Hammers. However, I understand where the criticisms can come from as he’s passing massively let himself down. Having said this, Nakamba’s main job is too break down play and for me he does it better than anyone else in the team and his effort on Sunday was unmatched. A worthy man of the match for Aston Villa in my opinion – 8/10
Emi Buendia – After Wolves, I tweeted that I was disappointed with our new signings work rate. After the Arsenal game I took that back as I thought that he was one of our only players who was actually trying. Unfortunately, I was yet again left disappointed by his reluctance to track back and help his full backs yesterday. Having said this, when he is on the ball he always looks like he can create something and he set up Watkins’ goal. I believe that if Buendia can put that little bit more effort in when defending we will have real world beater on our hands – 6/10
Leon Bailey – A disappointing performance but an understandable one from the Jamaican. Bailey did not look fully match fit and failed to really create anything going forward. It’s easy to forget however that Bailey has only just returned and it will be interesting too see how he gets on when he does finally become match fit. – 4/10
Ollie Watkins – Watkins looked much better when on his own up top instead of in a two. I think he worked much harder and shown more glimpses of the Ollie Watkins we got to watch last season. Another goal to add to his tally for the season and nearly a second after his headed effort was pushed on to the crossbar in one of Watkins’s better performances of the season – 6/10
Ashley Young – A really terrible performance from one of the more senior players in the squad. However, he is not a central midfielder and never has been one so the decision to overlook other more youthful players on the bench for was a baffling one. Young will want to forget about this performance. – 3/10
Tyrone Mings – Mings was quiet for his stint in the game. He came on at a difficult period of the match having just gone down to ten men. The centre back provided a threat from set pieces which looked like the only way we were going to get back on to the scoresheet. – 5/10
Anwar El Ghazi – El Ghazi failed to make any real impact on the game in his cameo. He provided us with a bit more energy and pace going forward but again he wasn’t nothing special – 5/10
WHAT WENT WRONG?
For me, the first thing that went wrong was Ramsey’s injury and Smith deciding to overlook the likes of Aaron Ramey or the more likely option, Carney Chukwuemeka, instead choosing Ashley Young to come on in the midfield. Now, I would like to make it clear that I am completely Smith in but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with every decision he makes. The decision to overlook the youngster is somewhat understandable as you wouldn’t want to expose them to a hostile Villa Park, so part of me understands the decision to play the much more experienced Young , however Young is not a central midfielder and never has been a central midfielder. I believe that the substitution was part of the reason why we lost the game.
The formation also worked much better than the five at the back before we were limited to only ten men. We looked much more stable and Matty Cash was still given a license to get forward and create.
However, in my opinion, the thing that made us lose the match was just a lack of overall effort. There was a number of players who were just not on their game yesterday and who needed to react quicker and it ultimately cost us for the first two goals. A good thing to see is the players arguing about it afterwards as it shows that they do actually care.
A tough day at the office for all involved but the fans need to stick with the team in order to get this the club out of the sticky patch. My final message to fans is that whether your Smith in or Smith Out, it is your duty as an Aston Villa fan to get behind the players and staff so that it is made easier for us to exit this rut. I have faith that Dean Smith has the capabilities to turn this team around and to progress, we just need to be patient and more importantly we need to Keep The Faith.
Thank you for reading and be sure to let me know your thoughts on the game.
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