Lethargic is the word Aston Villa manager Dean Smith used to describe his side following their 1-3 defeat to West Ham United at Villa Park. The defeat also meant that West Ham are the first team to do the double over Villa this season.
Smith chose to hand Anwar El Ghazi a start as he replaced Bertrand Traore in the only change to the starting lineup that beat Southampton the weekend.
Villa have come such a long way in such a short space of time and they deserve credit for this but this doesn’t make them exempt from criticism. The performance against West Ham was unacceptable and the players won’t need anyone else to tell them that.
Not at the races
David Moyes handed Jesse Lingard a debut for his loan move from Manchester United on deadline day and based on that performance, it looks to be a very good move.
The midfielder caused Villa problems from the first minute and added an extra dimension to an already strong Hammers side.
It was the fifth game in fifteen days for Villa but Smith refused to blame tiredness for the below-par performance. Tactically, he was as outdone as the players were on the pitch.
Emi Martinez was forced into action early on when he had to deny Michael Antonio and Lingard. The system Moyes had employed saw them play two rights backs in Ryan Fredericks and Vladimir Coufal in a bid to nullify Jack Grealish and it paid off.
It wasn’t all West Ham however and had Ollie Watkins found the target with his head from a Matty Cash cross it may have been so different on the night. Watkins came close once again a few moments later when his curling effort struck the woodwork and wide.
The two sides went in even despite the away sides domination. Villa had the better of the chances but didn’t look at the races.
Dream debut for Lingard
It took West Ham just five minutes after the break to take the lead. Villa were sluggish when trying to clear the ball, allowing Antonio to pick up the ball and find Said Benrahma, whos first-time pass fell into the path of Tomáš Souček, who finished into the bottom corner.
Five minutes later and the visitors had doubled their lead as Villa were caught on the counter-attack. Watkins lost the ball in the opposition box and West Ham broke forward with a man advantage. Antonio, who caused the Villa defence problems all night, picked out Lingard who was able to fire a shot under Martinez. On reflection, the former Arsenal keeper would have been disappointed with the goal.
Smith opted to finally change his tactics and move Grealish to the left and the move paid off within minutes. The England international found Watkins with a beautiful ball across the goal as the striker slid to finish to get one foot back in the game.
It wasn’t to be though for Villa as West Ham restored their two-goal advantage when Lingard drilled a powerful show past Martinez to give the Hammers all three points.