We Got Knocked Down, But Can West Ham Get Up Again For Their Visit To Villa Park

Reality called at the weekend with an emphatic defeat to the league champions. The Hammers must now show their character in tonight’s tough Aston Villa test

Ultimately it was a bridge too far. It was meant to big our big moment. Talked up in the media, the final game of a perfect January, a place in the top four beckoning, and facing a jaded, injury ridden opponent struggling to find enough competent defenders. The higher the expectations built, the more disheartening the fall when it came.

It was no disgrace to be outplayed by what turned out to be a very good Liverpool performance, but it was disappointing that West Ham didn’t give a better account of themselves. Where the visitors passing was smart, crisp and incisive, the Hammers were unable to break the press, were funnelled into cul-de-sacs and invention was limited to hopeful first-time flicks.

Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek found themselves outnumbered in midfield and were unable to offer the usual solid foundation to build upon. Not the first time this has happened against an opponent playing 4-3-3, so perhaps a Plan-B is required for such occasions.

As the game progressed, it seemed a scoreless draw was the best we could hope for, but a moment of poor judgement by Aaron Cresswell allowed Salah the gilt edged opportunity needed to put an end to his scoring drought. The goal played out like watching an accident in slow motion. We all knew what Salah was hoping to do and yet he was allowed to execute it without challenge. After that, there was no way back.

In different circumstances, the last two Liverpool goals would have merited a polite round of applause, even from opposition fans. The breakaway goal was a thing of beauty and a more worthy goal of the season contender, in my opinion, than the usual 30-yard pile-driver.

What we need now from West Ham is to see a positive reaction. It is not uncommon, once the momentum of a good run is lost, that it has a debilitating effect on the player’s mentality. The last thing we want is to do a Southampton – and the next few games will be a true test of the player’s character. Bouncebackability as Iain Dowie once termed it.

No surprise that the transfer window came and went without putting a dent in the West Ham war chest. An already skeletal squad ending the day a net one down in its senior player complement (Haller and Snodgrass out; Lingard in). It turns out that the myriad worldwide striker links in the media and the teasing in-the-know insights from ExWHUtealady and others, were all just made-up in someone’s bedroom.

I do understand David Moyes pragmatic position on transfers. Better to spend what limited money might be available in the summer than on a Sullivan-special now. Sullivan loves to parade an exotic name in a misguided attempt to impress and appease the fans. Moyes has done a fantastic job with the resources he has to work with, but progression at the club is constrained by ongoing mismanagement in the boardroom – and the consequences of the big sums wasted by Pellegrini on players patently unsuited to the Premier League.

Perhaps the inactivity will provide an opportunity for selected academy players – Ben Johnson, Jamal Baptiste, Connor Coventry, Nathan Holland, Mipo Odubeko – to stake a claim during the remainder of the season. High time that the ‘Academy of Football’ delivered the goods.

Today’s opponents, Aston Villa, leave me heavily conflicted. They are having a fine season, have invested (mostly) wisely in the squad, play attractive and enterprising football and can boast arguably the most creative midfielder in the country. Yet all those positives are undone by their ever whinging manager, Dean “VAR ate my hamster” Smith, and the unashamed cheating antics of Jack Grealish. The outlandish dive by Grealish in this season’s reverse fixture, conning the referee into awarding a yellow a card to Pablo Fornals, simply has no defence. Any self-respecting sport that was interested in cleaning up its act would find a way to take retrospective action over such incidents.

Tonight, is going to be a tough game. I don’t see many changes to the West Ham line-up except a first glimpse of Jesse Lingard in a West Ham shirt, probably from the bench.  Goals will again prove a problem for the Hammers and any thoughts that Villa are vulnerable at the back are dispelled by their having the second lowest goals against in the league right now. We will do well to come away with a point and I am liking the look of 1-1 draw. COYI!

9 thoughts on “We Got Knocked Down, But Can West Ham Get Up Again For Their Visit To Villa Park”

  1. This one has Villa win written all over it they have a solid defence solid and inventive midfield and a forward like Watkins who has an unbelievable all round game add Grealish and Barkley to the mix 4-0 but on a positive not these two teams are the most improved clubs in the league and both sets of fans should be happy with the direction both clubs are going in

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    1. I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if Villa won. Losing by a big margin would be more of a surprise. Villa’s defence is surprisingly robust compared to last years effort. I’m still not convinced by Barkley – inconsistent but very good on his day.

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  2. Very nice summing up, Geoff. Cresswell tried to tackle Salah (sort of) with his left leg as the Liverpool man cut inside, and ended up facing his own goal as the ball sailed in. The left of the defence remains i.m.o. our Achilles heel. I think Coufal with support from Bowen may be able to snuff out the Grealish threat from their side. But Rice and Soucek will be kept busy if he goes at our left flank. Two evenly matched teams. If Moyes allows the team the freedom to play again and stops talking up the opposition, this is winnable. 2-1. If he approaches it like the Liverpool game 2-1 the other way..!

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    1. I couldn’t make out with the Liverpool game whether it was the tactics that were wrong or whether the players just froze on the day. Whatever the reason they were given too much respect and it cramped our style. Maybe we would still have lost by giving it a go but it would have given the makeshift Liverpool more to think about.

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      1. The aim was, it seems, to draw or concede as few as possible (as in the Man City away game last year). A few minutes to go and on come Noble and Fredericks. His pre-match comments put Bill Shankly in the shade praising Liverpool’s achievements. The mindset seemed all wrong. Tonight will hopefully be a return to quick passing smash and grab instead of long balls over the top that Antonio can’t reach. If it is I think we’ll win, with Benrahma playing a more prominent role.

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      2. I didn’t hear Moyes comments before the Liverpool game but maybe that caution was picked up by the players. Whatever the reason we didn’t do ourselves justice or Liverpool just had our measure. Great way to bounce back last night though.

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  3. Wonderful Lingard debut. I don’t quite get this occasional negative approach, almost as if Moyes is, in his approach to ‘big’ clubs, still haunted slightly by the Man U experience. He shouldn’t be. I thought he did pretty well there and was unlucky not to get more time, as he eventually did with us. The management have got the players in a very good frame of mind – team spirit seems excellent. Also fitness levels seem much improved. Nothing like the injury-plagues of recent seasons, which, given the thin squad, is just as well. Interesting that Man U added that £500k to the Lingard fee if we qualify for the Europe…Never thought I’d hope the club loses £500k!

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    1. It’s a dilemma for the manager, I think. Unless you stay compact against Man City they can easily rip you apart. Most teams that beat them last year did so by containing them and hitting them on the break. That was probably also the best way to approach Liverpool last season. The thing about Sunday though was that Liverpool had not been in the best of form and had been weakened by injuries. In theory it was a great time to play them but in practice they performed very well. How much of that was because we let them, I’m not sure. You get it after many games e.g. did West Ham win last night because they were excellent or because Villa had a bad day – did Villa have a bad day because West Ham outplayed them?

      Very happy with last night’s performance. I wonder how we would cope with a season in Europe?

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      1. I think it was probably more a case of Liverpool hitting a high level against us. As if to illustrate the point, Salah got a similar chance last night to the one he converted so brilliantly on Sunday, and blasted over. The Villa keeper had a night he’d rather forget. So many variables!

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