This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
As the international break comes to an end, Premier League clubs and fans alike can begin to look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures in satisfaction, knowing that the top-flight and all its drama, goals and VAR reviews is back.
On Monday night, two sides at either end of the table will go head-to-head for the first time this season as 17th placed Aston Villa host a West Ham side on the cusp of a European place, even if it is still early days.
Dean Smith’s men have lost three of their opening four matches and last time out they were embroiled in a controversial clash with Crystal Palace, which saw their winger Trezeguet sent off before a Henri Lansbury last-minute equaliser was wrongly chalked off by referee Kevin Friend.
Now it’s time to move on from that as there is still plenty of football to be played, and West Ham present potentially their toughest test since Tottenham Hotspur on the opening weekend – Manuel Pellegrini’s side have only lost to reigning champions Manchester City.
But where will the match be won or lost and what will decide the game’s fortunes?
The battle between Tyrone Mings and Sebastien Haller has all the hallmarks of being a classic battle.
You’ve got the 6 foot 5 towering Villa defender, whose previous life in the Premier League has been restricted due to a string of serious injuries, making just 17 appearances in four seasons for his previous club Bournemouth.
And then there’s the newcomer, who has been showing exactly why West Ham paid a club-record £45m for him.
Despite being the taller of the two, Mings has actually won fewer aerial duels (2.8) than the 25-year-old (5.7), so whoever comes out on top in that mini war of attrition and physicality is sure to get the upper hand; pre-game Haller has the advantage.
The forward’s height may generally be an advantage at 6 foot 3, but he’s actually a key component in their passing game, averaging 32.7 passes per match and this WhoScored heat map from West Ham’s victory over Norwich last time out shows that perfectly.
He was more involved outside the penalty box and still got on the scoresheet, possibly a hint towards his dangers on Monday.
Mings will need to be on his toes in order to keep a hold on the former Frankfurt striker.
As good as Haller has been, he can be prone to the occasional unsuccessful touch, as he averages 2.3 per game and Mings is yet to even be dribbled past this season.
Villa could well do with a win, and it’s likely going to come down to whether or not their popular centre-back can handle one of the Premier League’s newest stars.