With the heartbreaking news that Christian Benteke will be on the sidelines for up to eight months, you can’t help but feel sorry for the big man missing his first World Cup and I am sure I am not the only one in wishing him a speedy recovery.
Unlike Belgium though, the Villa do not have another beast in the shadows ready to replace Big Ben in the form of Lukaku. We do have our Czech beast, Kozák who is also sidelined and Grant Holt, but please God tell me he is not the long-term answer.
So what are the Christian Benteke alternatives for the rest of the season?
This could be the perfect opportunity to play the Austrian in his favoured position down the middle for a significant run of games. I mean it was as a striker that he scored 20 in 22 games for the reserves and made his name a name for himself in the academy. He is a clever player and can be deadly in front of goal; think back to Man City at home. To me he has always seemed lost out wide and can’t cross for the life of him. He also doesn’t have the skills and eye for a pass to warrant him playing in the number 10 role. So maybe a run in the side as a striker could be what he needs to rekindle some form.
The Villa icon that has never quite lived up fully to fan’s expectations and will for him to be a truly great player. But despite this, his speed and power still frightens the life out of teams and he is capable of a bit of brilliance every now and again. While he was played as a single striker under O’Neill, he doesn’t really possess the characteristics to play up top on his own, but potentially he and Weimann upfront together could become a very good partnership. With no big man upfront it would also force the style of play to change to a less direct way of playing.
Now I do agree that Mr Greggs did put in a good shift at the weekend against Fulham and wore his heart on his sleeve. He certainly increased the foul count by drawing Fulham defenders in to bring him down on numerous occasions, thus winning Villa freekicks. But, at this stage of the season Villa seriously needs to look to the future. Yes, throw him on towards the end of the game to bully tiring defences or even start him and bring him off after an hour to let the young guns have a go at a wavering defence. The other qualm about playing Holt is it encourages Villa to play that direct hoof we all hate which really hasn’t worked at all for us this season.
For most Villa fans this man is the one they want to fill the void left by the injured Benteke. I am always hearing pleas (from myself too) for the big Dane to be given a proper chance in the first team. A tall man with great feet that can take on a man and seems relatively composed in front of goal. There are a lot of similarities to Peter Crouch, but with a bit more strength and style. So it begs the question why Lambert has been so reluctant to give him a proper chance in the team. With the Dane coming back from injury, now has to be the perfect opportunity, with Villa seemingly safe (maybe one more win away) and with a somewhat favourable run of games coming up, why not throw him in and see what he can do?!
Robinson has been increasingly regular on the Villa first team bench this season, but is still yet to get a significant run out. He is the latest teenage sensation to come out of the ever promising Villa academy production line. With 12 goals and 5 assists in 17 games for the under-21’s and England under-19’s this season, he has been in fine form. This coupled with last season’s inspirational performances in winning the NextGen series, he really does warrant a chance in the first team. He’s a little live wire, always busy and very good technically. He will also provide an unknown threat to opposing teams and give the team a different dimension. I am not saying throw him straight in at the deep end, but at least bring him off the bench with enough time to make a contribution.
So there are many options for Lambert to choose from to fill the massive gap left by Benteke’s injury. I for one just hope he tries something different and doesn’t rely on the Holt option, as that’s not really contributing much to Villa’s future. With the team’s below Villa in the relegation mire facing a tough run of fixtures, safety is all but assured, so now would be a good time to Lambert to conduct some experiments.
Follow Ashley on Twitter – @bannyboy95