Tactically speaking

West Ham United

Kevin Nolan

Ahead of West Ham United's trip to Aston Villa this weekend, football statistics website WhoScored.com have taken the opportunity to preview the Barclays Premier League fixture.

The teams enter the encounter on the back of contrasting results, with Villa succumbing to defeat at Everton, while West Ham secured a 2-0 win at the expense of Swansea City. That result means the Hammers have now picked up seven points from a possible 12 available, while Villa's loss has seen them accumulate four over the same period.

In the corresponding fixture back in November, the two teams played out a goalless draw at the Boleyn Ground.

The Villans have won just one of their last six at Villa Park and have the second-worst home record in the Premier League this season, having only taken eleven points. Only Fulham (ten) have a worse record. West Ham, meanwhile, will be looking to maintain their recent good away form with a positive result in the Midlands. Central to this will be Captain Kevin Nolan, who comes into the meeting on the back of his man of the match display last weekend.

The midfielder secured a WhoScored.com rating of 9.2 courtesy of his double goal salvo during his 87 minutes on the pitch, while also able to utilise his strength of 'defensive contribution' to help West Ham secure their league-high eleventh clean sheet of the season. However, the team will need him to maximise his attacking capabilities to help the Hammers pick up three points on Saturday.

Nolan has made a habit of finding the back of the net against Villa, having done so on five occasions; only against Sunderland (six) has he scored more league goals.

With Carlton Cole expected to lead the attack, it is possible that Nolan can utilise his teammates' WhoScored.com strength of 'aerial duels' to find the back of the net. A weakness of Villa's is 'defending against attacks down the wings' and if the West Ham players can pick out Cole from wide, he can use his heading ability to knockdown for Nolan to score, similar to Andy Carroll's role against Swansea.

Nolan's goalscoring exploits against Saturday's opponents bode well for West Ham as they chase three points and if he is able to match the performance that downed Swansea, the 31-year-old is more than capable of putting the Villa backline to the sword.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.

Aston Villa

Possible starting XI

Guzan

Bacuna  Vlaar  Clark  Bertrand

Weimann  Westwood  Delph  Agbonlahor

Holt  Benteke

After using a flat back four for much of the 2013/14 season, Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert chose to field a five-man defence in the club's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Everton last weekend.

Whether or not Lambert opts to stick with his new 5-3-2 formation at home remains to be seen, but the fact Villa managed to hold the Toffees until the final few minutes may tempt the Scot to do so.

That said, Villa were outplayed in terms of possession - they had just 29 per cent of the ball - territory and chances created at Goodison Park, meaning Lambert is perhaps more likely to revert to his tried and tested 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 systems on home turf.

Villa have utilised those two formations in 16 of their 24 league matches played so far, but have won just three of those games.

Whichever formation he plays, Villa are likely to play an aggressive counter-attacking game, breaking out from their own half at pace and unleashing plenty of shots on the opposition goal.

That approach has worked superbly on occasions this season, most notably in the 3-1 opening-day win at Arsenal and the recent 2-2 draw at Liverpool last month.

One of Villa's most consistent and impressive performers this season - and last - has been goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The United States international is an outstanding shot-stopper, commands his penalty area well and can distribute the ball accurately.

Should Lambert go for a four-man defence, he will have to choose between new signing Ryan Bertrand and either Nathan Baker or Antonio Luna at left-back. The fact the manager opted to bring in a new left-back in January suggests the Chelsea loanee and UEFA Champions League winner will get the nod.

On the right, Dutchman Leandro Bacuna is a modern full-back, getting forward and crossing the ball regularly.

In the centre, captain Ron Vlaar is tall, strong in the tackle and in the air and has good positional sense, while partner Ciaran Clark is not afraid to clear the ball from the danger area by any means possible, doing so 160 times this term.

In front of them, Ashley Westwood is a cultured central midfielder who emerged through the Crewe Alexandra Academy. Neat and tidy in possession, he passes the ball accurately and often - completing a team-high 82.3 per cent of his 903 passes - while also looking to get himself into position to make interceptions and blocks.

Villa's best player this season, statistically at least, has been Fabian Delph. An athletic, box-to-box midfielder, Delph can run with the ball, pass and tackle. He has put in more tackles (68) and interceptions (40) and been fouled more times (45) than any other Villa player.

On the wings, Lambert is likely to field Austria international Andreas Weimann. Quick and direct, the 22-year-old is also not afraid to put his foot in. Going forward, he has unleashed a team-high 48 shots on goal.

The other wideman could be England international Gabriel Agbonlahor. The Villa stalwart is still only 27 and possesses the speed, dribbling and finishing ability to cause problems to any defence on his day. He has a team-high five assists this season, and has also been booked more times (seven) than any other Villa player.

Up front, Lambert opted for two battering rams against Everton in Belgian Christian Benteke and January acquisition Grant Holt.

Benteke is Villa's top scorer with seven league goals. The 23-year-old is superb in the air, links up the play well, can run in behind and can finish with his feet from any range.

Wigan Athletic loanee Holt, 32, is a physical traditional English centre forward. He works his socks off, will challenge for header after header and regularly commits fouls on opposition defenders. In one word, he is a handful.