West Ham’s unbeaten run now stretches to five matches but they will be disappointed they couldn’t find the breakthrough against Aston Villa which would have seen them claim a deserved three points.
Sam Allardyce’s side created an abundance of chances, especially during a frantic finale, but Villa clung on desperately to halt a run of six successive defeats. It may not seem like a great result for the home side but there are plenty of positives to come out of the match, including the fact that they are – maybe temporarily – back in the top four.
Here we take a look at five things we learnt from the goalless draw.
1. Easy to stifle
Aston Villa set up to stifle the Hammers as they dared not lose a seventh on the bounce, and it wasn’t too difficult for them to employ this tactic. West Ham were sloppy in possession at times and never really found any passing rhythm throughout the match – this was largely down to Villa’s lack of ambition.
It was apparent that the visitor's willingness to sit back and let the Irons have the ball frustrated the players, and as a result they were guilty of trying to force it rather than patiently waiting for chances to fall their way.
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This alluded to a flaw in the side that they are a lot more comfortable playing on the counter attack than having the onus on them to dictate the play and break down an opponent. A tactic which may be deployed by other teams on future visits to the Boleyn Ground, so West Ham will need to buck up their ideas.
2. Midfield trio not always needed
In a game in which West Ham dominates possession it is clear that the three man midfield of Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble is simply unnecessary. With the Hammers constantly on the front foot one of them was bound to be frozen out; Kouyate being that man on this occasion.
Allardyce did notice and rectify the problem in the second-half, though it could be argued Morgan Amalfitano would have been the more creative option to bring on instead of Kevin Nolan, who had little impact on proceedings.
3. Wasteful before goal
Had West Ham converted just one of their 21 shots or made one of their 50 crosses count then the result could have been a lot different. Likewise, had Diafra Sakho been fully fit you would have backed him to score at least one of his two free headers in the box, but he failed to hit the target on both occasions.
Despite the missed chances and failure to score a goal in 90 minutes for the first time since the opening day of the season the attacking intent was still there; even on a day where they didn’t play brilliantly, they could have still won by a few goals but for Brad Guzan’s unbeatable form.
4. Andy Carroll provides great alternative
Carroll’s place in the side has been questioned after the exploits of both Sakho and Enner Valencia, but in a short 120-second cameo appearance off of the bench the striker proved what a great option he can provide.
Making his first appearance of the season after an ankle injury, the number nine had two close-range headers on goal in a thrilling last few minutes – one forcing a quite superb save from Guzan. He remains a real handful in the penalty area and brings that extra physical presence to the side.
Had he been brought on a little bit earlier he may well have earned the Hammers the victory, but you can understand Allardyce’s hesitance.
5. Stewart Downing is still human
Downing has received huge praise over the opening months of the season for his spectacular displays and he has even earned himself a call-up to the international set-up once again – and rightly so.
Following his sublime goal and assist at Stoke last week, however, he showed that he is still human with a below-par performance against Villa. Downing only completed six out of 17 crosses and had a great chance to find the net again, which he blazed off target.
There is no doubt he has been a revelation this season and one of the Hammers’ best players, so he can be forgiven for having an off-day, but the fans will hope he returns from the international break back to his best.
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