West Ham Matchup; Aston Villa Duo Cause for Concern

West Ham's Declan Rice. (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
West Ham's Declan Rice. (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

West Ham’s next opponent are brimming with talent and should prove a threatening counterpart with two players front and center of their clinical attack.

With back-to-back clean sheets under their belt, West Ham’s defensive record has skyrocketed this season. The Hammers sit fourth in goal differential at +5 and keeper Lukasz Fabianski sits joint first in shutouts with four on the season, proving there has been consistency in their fine form.

A challenge to this will be Aston Villa’s dynamic duo of Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins. The English hitmen are on just as strong offensive form as the Hammers are defensive, with Watkins sitting joint fifth in goals scored (6), and Grealish second in assists with five.

Every team in the Premier League has the ability to beat their counterpart, so predictions are often futile. With a matchup as close as this one, it seems even more of an exercise in futility. Aston Villa’s potent offence will have their hands full with David Moyes’ stout defensive structure in a matchup of unstoppable force vs. unmovable object.

For West Ham, the crucial members of the defensive unit to shut down these two players will be Vladimir Coufal at left-wingback, and Angelo Ogbonna at the heart of the Hammers’ defensive line. Both players have been incredible this season and will need to keep their form up in this battle of the top-six aspirants.

Coufal is coming off of a strong performance shutting down the Sheffield attack so well that they seemingly abandoned his side of the pitch from the start. Grealish, who can play centrally or out wide, will provide more of an unrelenting presence than the Blades on this wing, but physicality will be the key to shutting him down as he has the propensity to lose his cool when challenged and roughed up.

The battle to shutdown Watkins will be in the air for Ogbonna. Watkins’ finishing is fine with his feet, but darting runs between covering centre-backs opens up quick crossing lanes for Grealish or John McGinn to exploit. Regardless of covering Watkins himself, Ogbonna will be tasked with keeping his fellow defenders aware of his presence in order to nullify his advances.

Next. What Should West Ham’s January Shopping List Look Like. dark

On a week where headlines surround fans return to football and ‘big ticket’ matchups like Spurs and Chelsea, West Ham and Aston Villa have a chance to steal the headlines with an underrated, exciting match between two teams vying for European football in this young season. But, it’ll be a runaway for the Villains if the Hammers aren’t up to their defensive best.