Monday night football will be played at Villa Park this round. Aston Villa will host Manuel Pellegrini and his West Ham side in a match which is quite tricky to predict. West Ham started the season with better results, but Aston Villa played some wonderful football for their part, even though their results could have been better.
Jonatan Kodjia is still out for Aston Villa with his fractured cheekbone hampering his start of the season. He managed to play only 17 minutes this season and has been one of the players which have been sorely missed by coach Dean Smith. The match probably comes too early for the likes of James Chester and Matt Target too. They are back in training, but chances are that they won’t start on Monday.
Egypt international Trezeguet is a definite absentee for the match against West Ham as he serves his suspension for the red card he received against Crystal Palace.
One person who is finally fit and ready to start his Villa career is Marvelous Nakamba. The former Club Brugge player was one of the biggest signings of the season and big things will be expected from the defensive midfielder once he settles in.
The situation at West Ham is slightly better compared to Villa as they only have Michail Antonio and long term absentee Winston Reid missing. Antonio will probably sit out the rest of this year after he had surgery on his hamstring injury while Reid has been forgotten by Hammers’ fans due to his serious knee injury.
Aston Villa Form
Aston Villa have managed to collect only three points from their first 4 matches. Their only victory came in the third round against Everton when they won 2-0. That has been the only positive result so far, but their performances have warranted much more.
They played impressively well against Tottenham in the first round, but lost 3-1 even though they were leading at half-time. Had they been more concentrated during the last 20 minutes of the match they would have left White Hart Lane with at least a point in the bag.
Something similar happened during Villa’s second match of the season when they lost 1-2 at home to Bournemouth. Smith’s men had the lion’s share of position in that match and shot 22 times towards goal, but only managed to score a second-half consolation goal.
Villa’s last defeat could have definitely been avoided were it not for Trezeguet’s sending off. The Villans entered the match rather aggressively and received four yellow cards in the first half. That aggression seemed to be their undoing as it was much harder to play against Crystal Palace with 10 men and at the end Roy Hodgson’s men won the match 1-0.
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Villa Key Players
Three key players which have been pulling the strings for Villa this season were McGinn, Grealish and new signing Wesley. They are absolutely essential in Aston Villa’s attacking phase and when they play well Aston Villa are much more dangerous.
McGinn has been a real revelation in particular. Since arriving from Hibernian last season, the Scottish international has been an ever present player for his team and has formed quite the partnership with Jack Grealish.
Grealish for his part has become somewhat of a cult figure during Villa’s promotion from the Championship last season and fans were desperate for him to keep that form going into the new season too.
It wouldn’t be fair to be critical towards Grealish so early in the season, but even though he played well during the initial 4 matches, one has the feeling that he definitely could have given a little bit more. Giving that extra ounce of energy was what made him so special last year and if Villa are to stave off relegation, he will have to do that once again.
An indicator of just how important Grealish and McGinn are to their team is the fact that they are the two most fouled players so far in the EPL. John McGinn has been fouled 15 times while Jack Grealish has been stopped illegally on 13 occasions.
The last person on whom Villa rely for good results is Brazilian international Wesley. The 22-year old forward arrived as the club record signing from Club Brugge this season and a lot was expected from him.
If there was one thing that Villa lacked last year in the Championship it was goals and especially goals from their strikers. Tammy Abraham was their main goal scoring outlet, but since he was a player who was only on loan at the club, he had to return to his parent club Chelsea at the end of the season. He scored 25 goals and now that he was gone, the club had to replace his goal scoring output with someone who could do similar things.
A new signing was particularly needed because Villa’s other two remaining striking options Hourihane and Kodjia scored only 16 goals between them for the entirety of last season.
Wesley seems to be adapting quite well to his new Birmingham surroundings and bagged the crucial first goal in Villa’s win against Everton. What’s more, his movement and, crucially, his understanding with McGinn and Grealish are very good too.
The performances of these three players will largely determine Villa’s fortunes this season. They started the season playing well, but the results have been missing. If they continue playing with the same determination and dedication, this is bound to change though and Villa should start collecting points very soon.
West Ham Form
West Ham have been playing similarly well as Villa, but with one big difference. They managed to turn those good performances into points.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men started the season against the worst opponents possible and suffered a humiliating trashing. Manchester City absolutely destroyed the Hammers in that first match and put 5 goals past Fabianski.
However, since that defeat, West Ham’s performances have been gradually improving. They stabilized their form in the second round when they drew 1-1 with Brighton away and went on to defeat Watford 3-1 on Watford’s home turf.
Their last victory came against a very good Norwich team at home. They won the match against Daniel Farke’s team 2-0 and by doing that they managed to collect 7 points which put them in a much better situation when compared to their Monday night opponents.
West Ham Key Players
Sebastien Haller is the player that Aston Villa will have to pay special attention to. The French international came to London from Eintracht Frankfurt in a $40 million deal. This meant that big things were expected from the new striker immediately.
Similarly to Villa’s situation, West Ham were also left bereft of their main striker Marko Arnautovic after last season and they also needed to invest big to replace his goals.
Fortunately for Villa fans, the early signs on Haller are quite promising. He has scored three goals in as many matches for West Ham and continued his impressive goal scoring form even after crossing the English Channel. The former Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been involved in 21 goals in his last 25 competitive games as he has scored 15 and assisted 6 goals.
A Tough Match
As we already said in the beginning, this will be one match that football punters will have trouble guessing the final outcome of. Both of these teams are evenly matched and only the tiniest of details will determine the final result.
However, with all of that being said, watching Grealish, McGinn and Wesley combine for Villa is certainly encouraging for their fans and might be the difference which determines the winner on Monday.
The dynamism that McGinn and Grealish provide in midfield is difficult to control for opponents and the fact that they are the two most fouled players in the EPL speaks volumes of how highly their opponents think of them.
What’s more, having a good goal scoring outlet such as Wesley up front is also bound to be important this season and it should not come as a surprise if he is the one who scores the decisive winner on Monday night.