Three things we learned: Aston Villa v. West Ham

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BIRMINGHAM — Aston Villa and West Ham played out a tense, tight 0-0 draw at Villa Park on Monday, as the Hammers were reduced to 10 men but held on fairly comfortably.

In a game where both teams somewhat cancelled each another out, with their similar approaches and two big men starved of service, Aston Villa had the better chances and will feel like that was two points dropped.

Here’s what we learned from Villa Park.


Wesley v. HALLER A DAMP SQUIB

This was billed as a battle of the big men, and neither showed up. Both big men are essential to the way their teams play, and both had tough evenings. Wesley was more mobile than Haller, making runs right across West Ham’s defense, and he did just that but somehow put a header wide from inside the six yard box early on. He worked tirelessly but it just didn’t happen for him.

As for Haller, he was less mobile, which was surprising, and his first big chance was a tame header wide after Anderson popped the ball right on top of his head. Haller didn’t run himself into the ground and was slow to react to loose balls around the box, but in fairness the service to him was lacking. Both teams are set up to play the ball to their target man as soon as possible and then get their playmakers around them to create havoc from the knock downs or layoffs. Both Wesley and Haller will be far from happy with their displays.


POINTS NOT MATCHING VILLA’S PERFORMANCES

There’s not doubt Villa had the better of the play, and chances, but just as much as their build-up play dazzled, their lackluster finishing once again let them down. Playing against 10 men for the final 25 minutes, Villa failed to make that advantage count. John McGinn‘s efforts from outside the box caused Lukasz Fabianski the biggest problems, and had Wesley powered home a header early on it could have been a very different outcome.

Villa have played well enough in their opening five games to have at least an extra four points on the board. It’s still early days but Villa are in the bottom four, and unless they become more ruthless that’s where they will stay this season.


STAGNANT GREALISH A CONCERN

Many believe Jack Grealish should have be in and around the England national team. Monday’s display, which epitomized his season so far, proved he still has a long way to go. Grealish was busy, trying to get on the ball as much as he could, but he took too many risks in front of his back four and gave the ball away needlessly on plenty of occasions. He failed to make incisive runs off Wesley and aside from the odd long ball out wide or clever flick, he didn’t cause West Ham many problems.

Grealish has the quality to unlock defenses and deliver moments of real quality in the final third and he had Villa’s best chance in the 88th minute but he shanked horribly wide when unmarked at the back post. That summed up his night. Grealish has yet to do it in the Premier League and at the age of 24 he is no longer a young buck with plenty of potential. He has to stand tall and deliver to drag Villa up the table.

Racist abuse delays England v. Bulgaria qualifier

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England raced out to an impressive 4-0 lead at Bulgaria by halftime, but the wonderful attacking display was marred by horrendous incidents from the crowd.

The match in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria was stopped on two occasions with announcements being made to ask sections of the crowd to stop their abusive language. This comes with the stadium already serving a partial stadium closure due to racist chanting from the crowd in previous qualifiers.

Below is UEFA’s protocol on how to intervene in these situations, and what transpired from lead writer Joe Prince-Wright.

Tottenham re-signs goalkeeper Vorm

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With Hugo Lloris set to miss at least another two months of action with a broken elbow, Tottenham has turned to a familiar face to provide some cover between the pipes.

Tottenham announced Monday it had re-signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm to a contract through the end of the 2019-2020 Premier League season. Vorm spent five seasons with Tottenham after signing from Swansea City in 2014. However, after playing second-fiddle to Lloris and later serving as the third backup behind current Tottenham No. 2, Paulo Gazzaniga for the past couple of seasons, Vorm was released at the end of last season.

Its certainly a boost for Tottenham that a player with a long history at the club and plenty of experience was available to help in this situation. Similar to Liverpool picking up Adrian after Alisson Becker’s injury, Tottenham know what it’s getting in Vorm and may play him a few times if Gazzaniga needs a night off in the next few months.

According to Vorm, he had been home in his native Netherlands and was watching the game when he saw Lloris get injured.

“Obviously I saw straight away that he had a bad injury and at the time I thought about how bad it was, Vorm told Tottenham’s website. “After the game I spoke with Jan (Vertonghen), he told me what was going on and I spoke also with Toni (Jimenez, our goalkeeping coach) and, yes, during the week I got the phone call to ask if I was open to come back and help out. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the players and also with Toni. We were speaking quite regularly and on Thursday he called me, we had the conversation and from there on, it went very quickly.”

In his five seasons with Tottenham, Vorm made a total of 47 appearances in all competitions. He saw plenty of time in the League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and Champions League during his stay at White Hart Lane.

In-form striker Duvan Zapata injured on international duty

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This international break has been particularly brutal to clubs who have seen a host of key players go down with injuries, and there’s still a few days of matches remaining.

The latest player to succumb to injury is Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata who returned from Colombia duty with an adductor strain and will miss at least three weeks, according to Sky Sports Italia (via FootballItalia). Zapata went down 23 minutes into Colombia’s 0-0 friendly draw with Chile on Friday and was sent back to Italy for tests at his club.

Those tests have reportedly confirmed the initial fears. The loss of Zapata is a massive one for Atalanta, as the 28-year-old has been steadily building for years and is having a breakout start to this campaign, scoring six Serie A goals in seven matches plus one more in Champions League play, currently on a run of four consecutive games with a goal across all competitions. With Zapata’s help, Atalanta sits third in the Serie A table, having bagged the most goals of any team with 18 through seven games.

Zapata becomes the latest high-profile injury from this international break, joining Colombia teammate Alexis Sanchez who went down late in the same match and is reportedly out until 2020 with a serious ankle injury. Chelsea has been hit the hardest, with Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic, and Reese James all pulling up while N’Golo Kante was injured in France warmups but he is expected to be fit for the weekend. Luka Modric may miss time after going down in a Euro qualifier against Wales, while Gareth Bale also picked up a knock in that match. Neymar went down in Brazil’s match against against Nigeria, which forced manager Tite to explain his reasoning for the selection in a friendly. Sergio Aguero is apparently struggling to train with Argentina thanks to a mystery injury confirmed by Lionel Scaloni. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos withdrew from Spain training earlier in the week with “hamstring overload.” Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson left USMNT camp with a hamstring problem with the MLS playoffs on the horizon.

Ex-England midfielder Gascoigne on trial for sexual assault

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LONDON (AP) — A prosecutor has alleged that former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne sexually assaulted a woman on a train by “forcibly and sloppily” planting an unwanted kiss on her lips.

Prosecutor William Mousley’s comments Monday came as Gascoigne, who has struggled with alcohol and mental-health problems, went on trial at Teesside Crown Court charged with sexual assault of the female passenger.

Mousley said the former England star “put his hands on her cheeks and kissed her forcibly and sloppily on the lips.”

The 52-year-old Gascoigne denies the charge.

The alleged victim has told the court that she froze when the man, who appeared drunk, kissed her in August 2018. She says she did not realize it was Gascoigne until after the alleged incident.