A lackluster performance by Villa at home to West Ham and a couple of gift goals ensured that Villa will be in the thick of the relegation scrap.
The first half played in swirling wind was highlighted by poor passing, even along the ground by the home team.
It was also tactical nightmare by Paul Lambert. Credit him for trying to attack using a 3 man front, but the complete lack of width made West Ham’s job so easy. At times there was nobody down the right channel at all as Villa attacked only 27% of the time down the right and West Ham, 20% of their attacks went down the left, leaving the grass on the Doug Ellis Stand side barely used.
Villa found themselves with bags of possession around the box, but without the width, the build-up was slow. With the creative player Lambert was supposed to buy still absent, there was nobody to unlock a stubborn defence that many sides have failed to breach.
The only real scare was when former Villa player Downing missed the ball with the goal gaping and Bertrand slid into the post head first, but seemed okay.
A boring, scrappy first half ended and West Ham came out in the second half and oh look their needed January signing is coming on. By the time the Villa players had admired his neatly quaffed Italian hair it was a goal down. 18 seconds. The goal came from a looping, high ball from Tomkins. Only Nolan reacted, found Downing, he beat Bertrand too easily and NOLAN flicked a heel and the ball bounced off Clarke into the net.
Two minutes later Lowton cut out a through ball. 3 Villa players converged, but Delph waved them away. He held the ball way too long, was dispossessed by NOLAN who doubled his money with an easy take past Guzan.
Lambert reacted by taking Lowton off, placing Bacuna at right back and Albrighton on the right wing. Immediately, Villa looked better and the young Villa winger put in some decent crosses. But, the idea of assailing a Sam Allardyce team with aerial bombardment is at best ludicrous.
Villa got unlucky twice in five minutes as it tried to claw back into the game. Albrighton’s sizzling shot smacked the post, bounced back into play hit keeper Adrian on the foot and somehow went over the bar. Then Benteke’s header hit the post.
Of course Lambert put his man Grant on, for no reason, but that he’s trying to show Villa did bring someone in during January. Then when West Ham decided to switch a winger with a centre half, Lambert decided to take off Bertrand and put Bennett on. I was really hoping Bennett would play an Albrighton type role on the left, but no it was just a like for like swap.
Just to rub in how much better West Ham did in January than Villa, Allardyce threw on Nocerino, one of the best midfielders in Italy over the last 5 seasons. He wasn’t needed as the Hammers just defended and cleared until the last few minutes when Villa new the game was beyond them.
Guzan: Nothing he could do. Seems to have given up screaming at his awful defenders.
Lowton: Good going forward. Unlucky to be the one taken off. I would have removed Bacuna.
Clarke/Baker: Cannot play these two together. Somebody told me on the board they were the least of our problems. Let’s see. Long clearance, Clarke has nobody near, ball drops to him. Does he chest the ball, control it? No, he heads it and sets up a West Ham attack. Both players constantly fouling Cole needlessly. One time ran into his back 10 yards in the opponents half on the wing!! Constantly caught out by playing a high line as West Ham breached the offside trap. Twice had to run down Jarvis each of them and both lucky not to give away pens with same clumsy challenges. Baker passes to nobody on right wing. Should I go on? Clarke basically scored an own goal, with his feeble challenge on Nobles shot. Baker, caused Delph to hold the ball too long for the second by being too close although Delph should have just used Guzan.
Bertrand: Good impression of Luna. Is this a curse from Charlie Aitken or something? It has been so long since Villa had a good left back and even good ones become bad at Villa. Even managed a foul throw.
Delph: Better hope Hodgson doesn’t see this game. Lots of poor passes in the first half, gave a goal away. Finally played better once West Ham went into a 10 man defence.
Westwood: Pretty good game. Missed a great chance to volley us into the lead.
Bacuna: Everyone says he’s a nice guy, but it seems his opponents dislike him. Does he leave a boot in after tackles? One time I thought McCartney was going to choke him as Bacuna lay on the ground, with his forearm in his throat, then he got up and helped the Dutchman up.
Agbonlahor: Needs to pretend every game is a local derby. He wasn’t sharp and didn’t seem up to it.
Weimann: Worked hard, no real end product except a superb pass to Gabby that deserved better.
Benteke: Finally decent service off Albrighton, But Collins did a great job for them. Why did we let Collins go again?
Albrighton: I need a word somewhere between very good and brilliant. Then we can describe him. Where was he at Goodison and at home to Albion Lambo?
Bennett: The kid has skills. Not sure why he has been in the doghouse all season. Really needs to play forward like Bacuna on the left though. Even a loan move might have been good in January.
Man of the match: Gardner. Until he plays he hasn’t put a foot wrong.
Paul Lambert D-. He talked himself out of an F thanks to young Marc. But, how do you not only keep your job but get an extension after crap like this?
Final word on Charlie Aitken. I think Aitken was in the side when Villa last won a game Mike Dean was in charge. We didn’t need him to be at his most biased to lose this one, so he gets a pass.