West Ham like Everton before them, arrived at Villa Park with some pundits talking about where an anticipated victory would leave them in the league table. The Hammers failed to leave with the three points, as had The Toffeemen, perhaps those pundits might start showing us a little bit of respect before too long.
The point gained last night gives us 4 points from our first 5 games and a second successive clean sheet at home. This represents a satisfactory enough start to our season and takes us out of the relegation zone (Mind the gap Wolves!).
What we now need to do is to build upon these last two home games and to stretch our unbeaten home record from two to four games. A minimum of four points and preferably all six, should be our target from our next two home games against Burnley and Brighton. It is important that we put together an unbeaten home run that will make visiting clubs aware that they are in for a battle, if they expect to leave Villa Park with anything.
This team will get better as it becomes accustomed to playing alongside each other and playing in the Premier League. In the interim, we need to pick up points like this one to prevent us being left with a lot of ground to make up when we do click.
West Ham will finish this season in the top half and are not a bad side, so at this stage of the season a point is not too disappointing, even when it was collected against a team that were down to 10 men from the 67th minute. We don’t seem to take much of an advantage from opponent’s being sent off and last night, was not to prove an exception. The second booking did seem harsh, but Mike Dean chose to give the benefit of the doubt, rather than a second yellow for simulation to Noble on 38 minutes when he went down inside the box. If only Kevin Friend had given the same benefit of doubt to Jack at Palace, we would now be on 5 points rather than 4.
My player ratings from a game that reinforced the view that goals may prove hard to come by this year are:
Tom Heaton – 6 – The quieter by some distance of the two keepers last night. Easily held a 7th minute shot from the edge of the box from Noble and a header from Taylor.
Frederic Guilbert – 7 – He’s looking increasingly competent. Met a nice 33rd minute cross from Jack on the edge of the 6-yard box, but his mistimed header was easily collected by Fabianski.
Bjorn Engels - 8 – MOTM – Assured, confident and has quickly developed a superb understanding with Tyrone. Faultless last night.
Tyrone Mings – 8 – Made a good block on a 35th minute Noble cross and got another crucial block on a 73rd minute Haller shot inside of the box. What a partnership we now have at the centre of our defence.
Neil Taylor – 6 – Reasonably solid at the back last night but will surely have a Targett on his back soon.
Anwar El Ghazi – 5 – Responded petulantly when Mings berated him for not tracking Noble’s 35th minute run, moving his head towards Tyron’s face. There could only have been one winner, but he could perhaps show this sort of aggression when going for the ball in the other box, rather than when going for a colleague in his own. Looked a bit like a Joey Barton wannabee last night and VAR did look at this sorry incident, which might have earned him a red for the intent to butt.
Fabianski was a determined first to a 40th minute Jota cross aimed for Anwar and left the intended recipient of the ball in a heap on his follow through. Jack had earlier played a nice 32nd minute ball to him inside the left-hand side of the box, but the ball was never quite brought under control and ran out of play. McGinn chipped a lovely ball to him that he chested down well on the edge of the box before hitting a shot that Fabianski gathered without undue concern.
Marvelous Nakamba – 7 – Almost lived up to his name. A promising debut from a player who immediately looked at home as our deep lying midfielder. Could we potentially play him and Douglas, moving Jack and John a little further up?
John McGinn – 7 – Hit a well struck 30-yard shot that unfortunately went straight into Fabianski’s clutches. He was found just inside the box by El Ghazi during the 1st minute of first half stoppage time. His shot took the slightest of deflections off Wesley, who was in an offside position before being kept out low at his right-hand post by Fabianski.
Jack Grealish – 6 – Jota played a nice ball to Jack whose 51st minute cross was parried away at the near post by Fabianski, the loose ball was hit from just outside of the box by McGinn narrowly wide of the same post. Luiz played a nice 88th minute ball into the box that Jack stretched a leg to reach at the far post. He was only able to get a slight touch on it from 7-8 yards out, which sent the ball harmlessly wide. That had seemed to be the golden opportunity for a late winner, but I have the feeling that had he found the net, VAR might have found his toenail had strayed offside. It’s not quite happening for Jack just now is it?
Jota - 6 – Ran out of steam and was substituted on 66 minutes. Hit a couple of decent crosses.
Wesley – 4 – Some way below the standards he set himself with his last so impressive home performance. Headed a nice 13th minute cross from Jack over at the near post and then headed a 45th minute Jota cross tamely that Fabianski went down to his left to gather. That chance was later ruled offside by VAR. Went to ground all too easily and predictably when the ball fell towards him off a defender’s shoulder, after Davis had got a cheeky touch on El Ghazi’s 92nd minute corner. Didn’t have a lot of service but he can do better than this.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 - Came on for Jota on 66 minutes, did what it says on the tin again.
Douglas Luiz – Replaced Nakamba on 81 minutes. Not on quite long enough to gather a rating but stopped a dangerous looking run from Haller with a far from subtle, yet nevertheless important illegal challenge after 82 minutes. He might also have claimed an 88th minute assist when he found Jack near the far post, so he did show what we had missed in the short time he had available to do so.
Keinan Davis – Replaced Guilbert on 85 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa!