Three changes West Ham boss Slaven Bilic must make to beat Aston Villa

Slaven Bilic

West Ham United travel to basement boys Aston Villa on Boxing Day without a win in seven games knowing something has to change.

The Hammers travel to Villa Park off the back of three consecutive 0-0 draws - a new club record.

Slaven Bilic's side have slipped down to eighth in the Premier League after a run of seven games without a win.

In that time the East Londoners have only scored three goals.

It is a far cry from the club's electric start to the season which saw them boast the best away record in the Premier League with wins at Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Crystal Palace.

They also beat Chelsea and were the joint top scorers in the division until they hit a sticky patch which has coincided with a horrendous spate of injuries to six of their key players.

West Ham were becoming one of the most feared sides in the top flight, but their star has faded somewhat in recent weeks.

The East Londoners have suffered a glut of injuries to key players with no fewer than six first team stars ruled out for the trip to face Remi Garde's men.

While Bilic's options are limited with the likes of Andy Carroll and Manuel Lanzini still not ready to return, there are three key changes the former Croatia manager must make to take all three points on Boxing Day.

Time for Valencia to start

The £12 million Ecaudorian striker has missed most of the last five months through ankle injuries and has been slowly eased back into action from the bench in recent games.

He looked very sharp when he came on against Swansea City last time out and almost turned a game the Swans had been dominating in the Hammers' favour.

Valencia has bags of pace, something West Ham have sorely missed in recent weeks and a fact that was painfully highlighted by Nikica Jelavic's display at the Liberty Stadium.

Whether he plays with or instead of Jelavic remains to be seen but Valencia is ready to go from the off at Villa Park.

Obiang in for Noble

Initially after being handed the captain's armband following Kevin Nolan's departure, Mark Noble's performances spiked.

But his form has been very patchy this season even when the Hammers were in the middle of their seven-game unbeaten run.

After another largely ineffectual performance against Swansea, Noble's place must be under under genuine pressure now Alex Song is back in the first team and with the likes of Pedro Obiang kicking his heels on the bench.

Obiang has impressed whenever he has been given the chance by Bilic but has been mostly used as a late sub despite playing a key role in the away wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Bilic has made a rod for his own back by selecting Noble as captain given he was not going to be a guaranteed starter. But perhaps now is the time for Obiang to be given a fair crack of the whip.

Play Zarate up front alongside Valencia

Most West Ham fans have already seen enough of Jelavic after his first start against Swansea. While the Croatian's work rate and determination cannot be questioned, his distinct lack of pace and ability to truly hurt the opposition stood out.

Mauro Zarate has become something of a marmite figure at West Ham. He offers great ability and skill on the ball but his finishing has cost the Hammers dear in recent games and his failure to pass at key moments has driven some fans to distraction.

He has been used as a wide man as part of a forward three where he uses a lot of energy getting back to support the team when defending.

Zarate could prove much more effective playing up front, though, alongside Valencia which would give the Hammers pace and guile against one of the worst defences in the Premier League.


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