West Ham United host in-form Aston Villa in the Premier League this afternoon, with the Hammers looking to consolidate their place in the top six.
David Moyes’ side are sixth in the league and three points behind Arsenal, although the Gunners have a whopping three games in hand. Moreover, both Tottenham and Wolves are breathing down the Irons’ necks, so victory over Steven Gerrard’s side will be crucial in the hunt for a European place.
With ten league games to go this season, plus potential progression in the Europa League with the Hammers 1-0 down against Sevilla going into the second leg at the London Stadium next Thursday, the final two months of the campaign will be massive in deciding what awaits West Ham in 2022/23.
Therefore, it is crucial that Moyes gets his team selection spot-on today. To that effect, Nikola Vlasic should not start against Villa.
Since joining from CSKA Moscow last summer, the Croatian has struggled to live up to his £69k-per-week wage in east London, with the 24-year-old finding the back of the net just once in 32 appearances across all competitions.
Usually a left winger, the Croatian would come up against Villa right-back Matty Cash should he feature today, with the English full-back in the form of his life after two goals and two assists in his last three league outings whilst also keeping three clean sheets. Therefore, it would likely be another tricky afternoon for the 24-year-old if he starts this afternoon.
However, Moyes does have alternative options as to who is deployed out wide, with Said Benrahma coming off the bench on Thursday in place of Vlasic, who was on the right-hand side in Seville.
Although he is in the midst of an eight-match goal drought, the Algerian has been significantly more prolific than his Croatian team-mate, with eight goals and four assists in 35 appearances so far this term.
Even Pablo Fornals has enjoyed more success in front of goal, with the Spaniard netting on five occasions, all of them in the Premier League, along with setting up a further four goals.
West Ham’s attacking options are limited enough as they are, and with the Hammers in pursuit of a top-six finish, the match against Aston Villa is arguably a must-win.
Therefore, Moyes should change it up out wide and give the goal-shy Vlasic a rest after his involvement in the Europa League on Thursday. Frankly, the 24-year-old has been stealing a living since his move to east London.