For the fourth Premier League outing in succession Aston Villa failed to find the net as they played out a 0-0 draw at West Ham United on Saturday, and as a result lie in 14th place, three points clear of the relegation zone.
There were many more chances of note at Upton Park in comparison to the non-event against Hull City before the international break, but it was still a game in which the two sides largely cancelled each other out. There were plenty of attempts from either side, but too many of them failed to find the target.
Although West Ham, who played without a recognised striker, had the majority of those efforts, it was Villa who came closest to scoring, with home goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen saving Andreas Weimann’s shot with his legs, while Christian Benteke headed against the crossbar late on.
There was also a question mark in the first half as to whether the Hammers should have been reduced to 10 men, after Weimann was challenged by Ravel Morrison as he looked to go through on goal. However, Villa would have been a little fortunate to win what was a very even encounter, although it does maintain their excellent away record so far this season.
On the other side of the coin, manager Paul Lambert will be worried about the goal drought that his side are currently experiencing. It is certainly not due to a lack of effort, as Villa are one of the hardest-working teams in the Premier League, but at present, they seem to be without a clinical edge.
Even Christian Benteke has failed to turn things around in the regard. The Belgian has undoubtedly had ample opportunity to do so, being uncharacteristically wasteful, particularly in the defeat by Everton at Villa Park, where he missed a penalty along with another clear chance to score his first goal since September 14.
At the same time, the defence has markedly improved, keeping its third consecutive away clean sheet. With that area seemingly sorted on their travels at least, the focus will be on improving the goals for column that has remained unchanged since the end of September, and Villa’s next opponents, Cardiff City, will be tough to break down, particularly with how Gary Medel operates in front of the back four.
Maybe the problem for Villa lies in midfield, as the three that Paul Lambert selected to start at West Ham, Karim El Ahmadi, Yacouba Sylla and Ashley Westwood, are not players who are full of creativity. Of the trio, Westwood can spot the occasional pass, but he occupies deep midfield positions too regularly to provide enough attacking influence.
It therefore leaves the front three with the task of creating many of their own opportunities, unless the full-backs can offer regular support to an attack. At present in the way Lambert sets his stall out, Villa are overly reliant on the pace of Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor – who was injured for Saturday’s game – and the individual brilliance of Benteke to earn results, and that will not always achieve positive results.
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