Five big talking points as Villa suffer heavy blow in West Ham defeat

Aston Villa suffered a fourth consecutive loss in the Premier League on Sunday, losing 4-1 at home to West Ham Utd.

An early strike from Ben Johnson was exactly what Dean Smith and his players didn’t need as the pressure continues to build on all concerned at Villa Park, but as Ollie Watkins drew us level just after the half hour mark, it gave us renewed belief and confidence.

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However, it was unfortunately short-lived as Declan Rice restored West Ham’s lead just four minutes later, and after Ezri Konsa was sent off after 50 minutes, Pablo Fornals and Jarrod Bowen scored two late goals to compound Villa’s misery.

A reaction, and more importantly, a result, is needed against Southampton on Friday night for Villa, and so it’s hoped we’re able to pick up three much-needed points to relieve the pressure on Smith heading into the international break.

Villa leaking too many goals

That’s now 12 goals conceded in our last four games following on from our clean sheet at Old Trafford.

It’s hard to understand how this drop-off has continued in our defensive play, as we had previously looked to have rectified key issues and become a tighter unit once again.

If we want to start climbing the table and get out of trouble, we must get back to basics and defend better first and foremost to become a harder team to beat. From that foundation, the quality we have in attack will then make the difference.

Midfield has been too weak in losing streak

While fingers can be pointed at the backline, especially for West Ham’s first two goals on Sunday as we didn’t defend aggressively enough and gave them too much time and space, our midfield has disappeared in recent outings.

That’s in both phases of the game too. They haven’t been offering anywhere near enough protection in front of the defence and with an inability to get a foothold in games, we’re being overrun constantly with sloppy play getting punished.

Further, time and time again the ball was lofted forward by our defenders against the Hammers, with the likes of John McGinn, Marvelous Nakamba and Ashley Young unable to get on the ball and get us moving up the pitch with a more fluid and accurate style of build-up play.

Glimpse from Buendia

While he was largely quiet on Sunday, what we saw from Emiliano Buendia in the build-up to our goal was exactly what we need more of from him.

The run off the ball down the right flank was the first bit of quality play, and he showed great composure and vision to pick out the right pass for Watkins to tuck the ball into the back of the net.

Buendia’s movement and creativity needs to come to the fore for Villa in the upcoming games, as we must get the best out of him to become a dangerous threat in the final third.

Watkins more effective in more natural role

While a number of key individuals have struggled in the 3-5-2 system, none more so arguably did than Watkins.

On Sunday, our top goalscorer from last season was restored to his preferred role as the spearhead of the attack and he got himself on the scoresheet.

Beyond that though, his pressing and positioning across the pitch was crucial, leading to him applying much-needed pressure on West Ham at times, but there was a lack of cohesion and organisation about our press in their half which led to our bigger problems.

Must win game at Southampton

Unsurprisingly amid a four-game losing streak, the pressure is building on Smith.

A large portion of the issues detailed above arguably are to do with the players more than the Villa manager, but naturally he’s the one to face the brunt of the criticism.

While it’s perhaps not quite ‘win or get sacked’ at this stage, Smith and his Villa squad desperately need a morale and confidence boosting three points on Friday night at Southampton to get us back on track. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long and difficult international break before we face Brighton on November 20.