By Isa Sulayman
It didn’t take very long into his Villa career for the realisation that Christian Benteke was destined for bigger and better things to resonate amongst the fans. ‘Big fish in a small pond’ doesn’t quite cut it, more like a great blue whale in a kiddie’s paddling pool at times. After 49 goals in 101 appearances over three seasons – of which two of those the big Belgian definitely deserves foremost credit for the club’s continued top-flight status – Benteke made his big-money move, heading up the M6 to Liverpool.
How the club attempts to fill the resultant void will go a long way to determining the team’s fortunes for this season. Of course it is extremely unlikely that any individual signing can be expected to fundamentally match Benteke in the sheer importance of his contribution and nor should they. As grateful as we should be for such heroics, the flipside was that the team became wholly reliant on him – the archetypal ‘one man team’ if you will. In his first season with Villa, the statistics declared Villa relied on him even more than Spurs did Gareth Bale.
If funds can be put towards significantly strengthening the squad, with a few more match winners, then there is considerably less dependency on the next striker regardless of how good he is.
Yet that isn’t to take away from the ideal of having a capable 15+ goal a season forward. Ultimately it is the basic duty of a forward to provide the most consistent and substantial goal source in the team. Here we look at a few potential Benteke replacements:
Ayew is meant to be in Birmingham having a medical, and the 23-year-old, a renown hot head in France, is already showing his attitude by publicly denouncing the efforts of his current employers Lorient for trying to squeeze more cash out of Villa. While negotiations become increasingly public you’d expect any differences to be ironed out soon enough, although the fee is expected to be around the £9 million mark, with some press seemingly simply switching the euro sign on his 12 million Euro price tag to pounds.
One thing is for sure, Premier League clubs are having to pay over market value for French league players, as Villa have found out.
Having struggled for goals at Marseille with only 14 in over 100 appearances, Ayew’s move to Lorient saw him net 12 in 29 appearances last season.
While maybe not the most technically gifted forward, the Ghanian international is quick and a willing runner. Villa will perhaps need another striker up top with him, as he can’t be expected to lead the line as effectively as Benteke. An emotionally charged player, it will be interesting to see how he fares in lean times; whether he’ll get frustrated quickly or if he’ll keep Villa charged up.
While MOMS has dismissed this as a lazy link and questions the motivation of a player who is 32 next season and only made eight league appearances last term, you have to mention Adebayor since the newspapers refuse to give up on him.
There is absolutely no doubting Adebayor’s credentials as a player. When on form, he is a well-rounded forward, capable in link-up and hold-up play. Arsenal > Manchester City > Real Madrid > Tottenham – his CV certainly attests to this with a respectable scoring record at all. However that is only half the story.
The Togolese international has always been something of a maverick, he performs when he feels like it. Take into account his personal issues over the past year – most significantly including being granted leave for contemplating suicide – and it cannot be denied that it is a risk.
The main encouragement would be that the manager has previously worked with him and coaxed some of his best performances in recent years. Nonetheless, it is a big call by Sherwood, there’s a big question mark over Adebayor’s heart still being in it and his current wages at Spurs might dampen his enthusiasm to play elsewhere.
The popular choice amongst fans and perhaps also the sure bet. Austin may of had only one season in the Premier League but as with previous step ups in his career he took it in his stride. 18 goals for a side as underwhelming as QPR shouldn’t be scoffed at. The main downside lies in QPR’s reported £15m valuation, which has yet to be met despite numerous suitors.
On the face of it, it does seem steep. The former Burnley hitman is in the final year of his contract, has turned 26 and has a known underlying knee injury. It would represent a significant outlay on a player who with no major sell–on value and in the worst-case scenario could be another Dean Ashton.
Maybe not much of a chance of it happening although Villa have been vaguely linked in recent weeks with it said to be known that Sherwood is an admirer. Batshuayi has many desirable attributes; both footed, pace to burn, strong physique, adept dribbler, aerial ability that defies his size etc.
There is no doubting that he is a superb talent. Last season he notched an impressive 9 goals for Marseille despite having his opportunities curtailed (6 league starts) by Gignac’s form and a lone-striker system deployed. With Gignac exiting on a Bosman this summer, is thought they will hang onto the young Belgian but every player has his price as they say.
Aboubakar has gone off the radar somewhat since his €10m move to Porto last year. Similar to the Batshuayi situation, he found himself behind the excellent Jackson Martinez in the pecking order in addition to not really being suited to the system implemented by former Spain U-21 manager Lopetegui.
With the arrival of Bueno, it’s likely that he’ll only remain as back-up and Porto could be open to selling. Aboubakar is a mobile, powerful unit. Likes to run with the ball and also strong aerially. Suited to the Premier League.
One thing is for sure with Villa looking toothless in pre season so far, more striking options are a must in the next week or so. UTV
Follow Isa on Twitter – @issassin
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid