Aston Villa and the lessons to learn

Villa lose at West Ham as Dave Woodhall wonders about changes.

Although it grieves me to say it, Villa could have learned a lot from West Ham over the past couple of years. At this stage two seasons ago we were both in trouble. Villa being Villa took it to the wire while the ‘Appy ‘Ammers put together a run that saw them escape comfortably and continue that resurgence with European qualificatiobn last season and being in with a shout of doing the same now. And this with a manager who was reckoned to have been past it when he got the job. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

Villa were unchanged from Thursday, which is both understandable because it was arguably the best performances of the season, and worrying because it might mean that Steven Gerrard likes sticking with a settled side regardless of opposition or individual loss of form, and that’s not served us well in the past. Jacob Ramsey has been a bit out of sorts lately and there was a good case for (finally) giving Morgan Sanson a start but it wasn’t to be. Still, he’s the manager and he knows a lot more than any of us do.

Villa’s recent good form had come against teams either close to or below us in the table, while this was the first of a run of games against better opposition that would show just how much we have to do to challenge the likes of, er, West Ham.

There wasn’t much to talk about in the first half except for Lucas Digne going off injured. Neither side showed much sign of being able to take control of the game, although we could at least look at a bench that was strong enough make a difference in the later stages, when West Ham would, as the theory goes, be suffering the effects of a midweek European trip.

And those replacements might have made the difference, had any of them been on the pitch during the time West Ham stepped up a gear and looked by far the most likely to score. Villa had started the second half well and a shot by Danny Ings that was pushed onto the post to fall harmlessly back to the keeper was the best chance of the match until then, but it also signalled the start of West Ham’s improvement. Much of this was inspired by the arrival of their Ukranian international Andriy Yarmolenko, whose appearance was greeted with applause from both sets of supporters, proof that however deeply we might feel, there are far more important things happening in the world than the result of a football match.

The identity of the first goalscorer was inevitable, and ironically it came seconds after Leon Bailey had replaced Danny Ings. West Ham’s second also came not long after a Villa substitution, Emiliano Buendia replacing Douglas Luiz. Jacob Ramsey got an injury time consolation after some good work by the subs but that was it.

The recent run meant that we wouldn’t go down the table although this result shows that any further improvement is unlikely. West Ham aren’t that much better than us, but they were able to improve during a period of the game when we should have had the advantage. That’s what can happen when an experienced Premier League manager comes up against one who’s still learning the trade.