Four things we loved about West Ham United's win at Aston Villa
1 JLingz’ debut delight
It would be easy to get carried away talking about Jesse Lingard’s West Ham United debut – but why shouldn’t we!
The Manchester United loanee was simply sensational at Villa Park, and that was before he capped a superb all-round performance with two well-taken goals.
In the first half, Lingard was everywhere, completing 28 of his 29 passes, linking the play and unleashing four shots on goal.
In the second, he was clinical, scoring with both shots, the first with his left, the second with his right, to fire West Ham to a fifth away win of an increasingly impressive season. In doing so, he became the first Hammer since Trevor Sinclair against Everton in January 1998 to score twice on his Premier League debut.
Appearing in his first Premier League game since July, there was pure joy in Lingard’s play, and it translated into a match-winning performance.
By the time he was replaced with a minute of normal time remaining, Lingard had completed 41 of 45 passes, two of them creating chances for teammates, had six shots on goal, scored twice and won a new Claret and Blue Army of fans.
2 Marvellous Mick
He may have had to cede the goalscoring and celebrations to Jesse Lingard, but Michail Antonio was still hugely influential in West Ham United’s win.
The No30 led the line outstandingly well, repeatedly holding the ball up and winning aerial challenges against Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa, making run after run in behind the Villa back line and, most importantly, playing his part in all three goals.
For the first, his hold-up play and lay-off allowed Saïd Benrahma to release Tomáš Souček to open the scoring six minutes after half-time.
For the second, his intelligent clipped pass found Lingard in space, enabling him to control and fire past Emi Martinez with his left foot.
And for the third, it was his perfectly-weighted pass that released Lingard again, this time on his right foot, and the England midfielder fired low and hard through the Villa goalkeeper.
Antonio now has five goals and three assists in just 14 Premier League appearances this season, underlying his importance to this improving West Ham team.
3 Coufal and Fredericks right back at it
The selection of both Vladimír Coufal and Ryan Fredericks had pundits scratching their heads as to how West Ham would line up at Villa Park, but David Moyes’ tactical decision to play two right-backs proved a masterstroke.
With the speedy Fredericks playing in front of the resilient Coufal down West Ham’s right flank, the pair combined to effectively nullify Villa’s captain and creative talisman Jack Grealish.
With the Hammers duo snapping at his heels, the England international was repeatedly forced to turn back, saw his crosses and through balls cut out and eventually moved to a new position in a bid to find space.
Such is his quality, Grealish did create Ollie Watkins’ consolation goal with a fine pass, but by then he had moved to a more central role, away from the attentions of West Ham’s two resilient right-backs.
4 Super Souček – again!
Has there been a better signing in the Premier League in the last three transfer windows than Tomáš Souček?
The Czech Footballer of the Year was again influential at Villa Park, scoring his eighth Premier League goal of the season and eleventh in 35 top-flight appearances since his arrival from Slavia Prague in January 2020.
Of all Premier League midfielders, only Bruno Fernandes has scored more goals than the Irons’ No28 in 2020/21, and six of the Portugal international’s 12 have come from the penalty spot, while all of Souček’s have come from open play.
Against Villa, the 25-year-old’s goal was a pure, unerring, accurate right-foot strike into the bottom corner, showing the 6’4 star has technical ability to go alongside his aerial prowess.
Pound for pound, both literally and figuratively, he is surely among the best players in the Premier League at present.