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Former Aston Villa and Ireland midfielder turned pundit Andy Townsend previews our Boxing Day fixture
Former Aston Villa and Ireland midfielder turned pundit Andy Townsend previews our Boxing Day fixture
The problem Aston Villa have got is that they have found it so difficult to get results at Villa Park, and it hasn’t just been this season for Remi Garde and Tim Sherwood. It’s been for three or four years now that they haven’t been able to find any real consistency at home.

The Premier League has been a bit bizarre this season because we’ve had virtually the same number of wins away from home, as by teams playing at home.

To get any sort of rhythm or consistency in your team, you’ve got to win matches in your own patch and Villa have not been able to do that, which is why they have found themselves in the bottom reaches of the Premier League in the last three or four years.

Villa have been on the brink for a few years now, and this year it looks like it will finally catch up with them.

Against Newcastle last time out they showed a bit of spirit and courage in horrible conditions and got themselves deservedly back into the game and got a point.

I watched them against Man City at Villa Park recently and they kept the ball quite well without carrying a threat in the final third, and that’s where the problem lies for Aston Villa.

Last season, Leicester were able to find their way out of trouble because they had Vardy, Ulloa, Kramaric and Mahrez who, even when they were getting beat, you thought could get them a goal and win them a game.

I look at Villa at the moment and they don’t have many of those at all. Ayew has got a couple of goals but I don’t think he’s a No9, so I would play Gestede more. In the remaining games Villa have got, every single one will be a battle, so I’d play him.

Villa can be quite blatant in the way they set up. They shouldn’t worry about possession but should concentrate on playing in the final third of the field, and not beat themselves up about not having the ball. They need to get the ball up to Gestede and get people around him and see if he can make things happen.

I don’t think that’s a bad ploy when you’re struggling. Simplify your game.

As for West Ham, I think Slaven has done a brilliant job. I like his manner, because when he talks, he talks honestly and seems to be a very humble guy, and I like that.

We’re in an era where every manager seems to be writing back-page headlines every time the mic is put in front of him, but Slaven is not interested in that.

He is very honest in his appraisal of his team. When they play well, he is the first one to credit the players. If they’ve been poor, he’ll tell it like it is.

You have been unlucky with injuries recently. I’ve seen West Ham five times this season, home and away, and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, but I like the dynamic of the team.

When I saw Valencia and Sakho come in under Big Sam last season, I could see signs of a different dynamic and I’ve liked watching West Ham over the last couple of seasons.

You’ve got some big, powerful and influential players like Kouyate and Carroll, but I do like to see Zarate, Lanzini, Noble and Payet and players like that. I think it’s important for a club like West Ham to have those sort of individuals.

When you are in good mode and are in a good moment, I think that team gives you a good chance.

Finally, Darren Randolph is a fellow Republic of Ireland international of mine and he has done really well.

It must be harder to be a No2 goalie than ever, because they don’t get a lot of reserve-team football, and it’s hard to keep your sharpness, but Darren played important games for West Ham and Ireland and his work was very tidy, like it always has been.

I think he has come in and done really well and it’s important for Ireland to have a goalkeeper that we trust, and we trust Darren as a really safe pair of hands.