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Player Match Ratings: Second best by some distance!

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It was hard to take the smug self-satisfied grins on the faces of David Moyes and Jesse Lingard, at the final whistle. Moyes certainly did a job on us last night and Lingard took a full year of frustration at Old Trafford out against us for 91 minutes. Moyes conceived a game plan to win this game and his team executed it to the letter. A crucial part of that plan was to nullify the positive influence that Jack invariably has on our level of performance. He did that by having Coufal man-mark him and by having him and Fredericks double team him, when he had the ball.     

The visitors clearly had a greater desire to stay in the top six, than we had to get into it, last night. They were first out of the blocks, bossed the midfield, were resolute at the back and were dangerous up front. We were too ready to let them take the early initiative. They had the better of the first half, although we went closest to scoring, when Watkins 27th minute shot clipped the outside of the far post, with Fabianski beaten. Had that gone in things may have been different, after all, we rarely fail to win when we score first, in the same way that we rarely win, after conceding the first as we did last night.

At half time, I had felt relieved that the game was still all square. Given that we often play significantly better in one half, than the other, I had hoped that the best was yet to come. How wrong I was. West Ham dominated the second half, and they won the battle of the two most improved PL clubs this season, rather too easily.

On 63 minutes Mings magnificently managed to hook an Antonio shot off the line to prevent the visitors going three up. In so doing, he preserved what had seemed an unlikely chance of pulling this game out of the fire, during the last third of the game. Watkins then proceeded to pull a goal back on 81 minutes. This would surely be too little too late and so it proved, but not before Ollie got within inches of equalising a minute later. Unfortunately, Dawson just got to a cross from Jack that had just needed a touch for an equalizer first. Hopes of a late unlikely comeback were then finally extinguished a minute later, when Lingard (who we made look like Ronaldo last night) restored the visitors two goal lead.      

West Ham did a Villa on us last night. They pressed us, gave us no space in which to play and put their chances away clinically. They dominated the game a little like we had done at their ground earlier this season, but unlike us they did not come away empty-handed.

We have now lost as many home games as we have won. Home advantage is of course much diminished without the encouragement of home supporters this season, but Leeds, Southampton and now West Ham, did not just win at Villa Park they won easily. We need to formulate a cunning plan for games like this, as a matter of some urgency.          

We were off the pace last night, that may have had something to do with the number of games that we have had since our mid-season training break. Admittedly only Manchester City seem to be able to produce a consistently winning performance each time they are called upon to do so, in this season when games come thick and fast. We are not alone in having the odd poor game, West Ham had one against Liverpool, but we do need to make sure that we do not make a habit of it.        

We are now ninth and although we will have a game or games in hand of everyone else on Thursday night, you need to win them, to make them count. I think that we would all have taken a mid-table finish happily, before the season began, but having got into the position that we now occupy, it would be a pity not to go on to finish in or near to the top six. Or as a minimum, at least in the top half of the table. We now need to bounce back at the weekend for the visit of Arsenal. We need to rediscover the exciting Villa that are so easy on the eye and to find again our defensive solidity. We need to pick up runners and to give 110%. Make it so Villa!      

My player ratings from a game during which we gave a poor, below par performance are:

Emiliano Martinez – 4 – Emi will not be happy to have seen the second and third goals go past him, he sets high standards and does not take well to any goals being scored against him. This was not a good day at the office, and it needs to be put behind him as nothing other than a rare off day.

Dived to his right to save a 12th minute Antonio shot from inside of the box and dived to his left to save a Lingard shot from the edge of the box 3 minutes later. Dived to his left to keep out a 33rd minute Cresswell free kick from the right edge of the box. Easily gathered a 38th minute Coufal shot that was hit straight at him. Got a hand to Lingard’s 56th minute shot from around 8 yards out, after he had been found unmarked inside the left of the area, but the ball went on to bounce over McGinn who was trying to intercept on the line and into the net for their second. Beaten again by Lingard who had been found inside the right of the box by Antonio. Emi seemed odds on to keep Lingard’s 83rd minute shot out, but although he got down to it, he failed to hold it or to do enough to push it wide of the left post, which had seemed his intention.    

Matty Cash – 5 – Not at his best, but he was not alone in that.

Ezri Konsa – 5 – See above.

Tyrone Mings – 6 – His “never say die” approach to the game was exemplified on 63 minutes when he hurried back at pace to hook the ball off the line after Antonio had hit the ball over Martinez, for what had appeared to be a certain third for the visitors. His determination gave us a lifeline that sadly we did not quite use to rescue a point from this game.

Matt Targett – 5 – Another who consistently performs at a higher level than this.                

Ross Barclay - 4 – Hit a Targett free kick that had been headed on by Dawson into his path, wide of the right-hand post from 12 yards. Failed to try to track Soucek’s run which culminated in him scoring their first goal.   

Anwar El Ghazi – 4 – Replaced at half time following what had been a disappointing display, given his recent improvement. Anwar failed to get into this game.

Douglas Luiz – 5 – Another that did not produce his best in our misfiring midfield.

John McGinn – 4 – Not near his best.    

Jack Grealish – 5 – Claimed an assist for our goal, but his overall contribution to the game was significantly less than we have come to expect from him. Hit a 75th minute free kick from a central position, around 30 yards out, wide of the right post. Should have been switched to the right earlier.                                       

Ollie Watkins – 6 – MOTM – Lacked sufficient service. Headed a 22nd minute Cash cross over the crossbar. Ollie was found by Jack on the left edge of the box and he hit a 27th minute shot from just inside it, that Fabianski could only watch as it clipped the outside of the far post. He played the ball wide right for Jack on 81 minutes, who in turn played the ball back for him to run onto inside of the box. Ollie did well to get in between two central defenders to slide in to and put the ball between the near post and Fabianski, to give us some cause for late hope. He was so near to getting an equalizer a minute later, when Dawson just reached an inviting Grealish cross, a split second before he did.    


Bertrand Traore – 5 - Replaced El Ghazi at half time. Hit a 66th minute shot from the edge of the box that took a deflection off Dawson and that was then helped over the bar by Fabianski. 

Mahmood Trezuguet – 5 - Came on for Barclay after 69 minutes.  

Morgan Sanson – Replaced Douglas on 80 minutes. Not a great game to make your debut in and he was not on long enough to gather a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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