Villa fail to capitalise

Dave Woodhall on Villa’s goalless draw with West Ham.

One of these days I want to stop talking about the Villa’s impressive crowds and talk instead about the team’s impressive performances. Monday wasn’t one of these days.

Another sell-out, for a Monday night on TV game against less than attractive opponents was further proof that our fanbase continues to grow, and credit also West Ham, who sold out their allocation. It’s just a pity that the attendance was the most noteworthy thing about the game, as two teams whose summer spending could have gone a long way to alleviating world hunger produced ninety minutes that even the Sky hype machine would struggle to promote as befitting the Best League in the World.

Wesley should have scored with a first half header while Jack Grealish just couldn’t reach what would have been an open goal right at the death that was about all there was in the way of clear-cut chances for either side. At the other end Tom Heaton was barely in action and the only real save he had to make was from a Bjorn Engels back-header.

The biggest problem so far this season has been a tendency to make too many daft mistakes in every game, and at least that saw a vast improvement, particularly in a defence that has now conceded just one goal in three games. Engels and Tyrone Mings continue to look another in the great tradition of Villa central defensive pairings, Frederic Guilbert is already looking the part and Neil Taylor hasn’t done much wrong so far.

It’s in the creative areas that the problems start. El Ghazi, Jota and the suspended Trezeguet all look potential world-betters on occasions but have so far lacked the touch of inspiration that can win matches on a regular basis. Jack Grealish, meanwhile, is playing far too deep and continues to drop back to look for the ball when he should be further upfield waiting for it to be laid off. Fortunately, John McGinn is continuing to be his consistent self.

As the game wore on, Ahmed Elmohamady came on and was almost instantly involved in the biggest talking point of the game, when a foul led to a second yellow for West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku. It was a pointless dismissal as Elmohamady seemed to have lost the ball, but as is often the case the team with ten men had their best spell after the sending-off.

Dean Smith took off Marvelous Nakamba, who has done well although his replacement, Douglas Luiz, showed much more drive and inspired Villa to look for a winner in the last ten minutes. There’s an argument for playing them both together, although who would be dropped is the problem there. Smith’s attitude to football was also shown when Guilbert was replaced by forward Keinan Davis towards the end. The winner didn’t come, though, and in truth Villa didn’t really deserve one.

The point they did get moved the team out of the bottom three, although at this stage of the season the table doesn’t matter too much. It wasn’t a great game, and the team’s shortcomings are still clear, but being hard to beat is half the battle and we know what has to be done to improve. Onwards and upwards