Sherwood addressing striker issues
Those who worried that Villa may be left short of options up front after the departures of Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann and Darren Bent may be about to change their minds. In addition to having Jordan Ayew, Libor Kozak, and Gabriel Agbonlahor on the books (and younger attacking players such as Callum Robinson and Jerell Sellars) Tim Sherwood looks set to finalise the signings of both Emmanuel Adebayor and Rudy Gestede. So what does this mean for Villa’s existing strikers and tactical options?
Filling the big man’s boots
According to reports Blackburn Rovers striker Rudy Gestede is about to sign on the dotted line at Villa Park. This, accompanied by the imminent loan arrival of Adebayor, should go a long way towards filling in for the physicality that Benteke brought to the lineup last year.
Benteke is 6ft 3. Gestede is 6ft 4. Gestede proved his strength and ability last year, especially when he caused Liverpool all sorts of problems in the FA Cup (Big Villa striker terrorising Liverpool, sound familiar?). His power will be a real asset to Aston Villa’s striking options. Villa’s whole strike force would suddenly seem a lot more imposing if the Blackburn man joins Adebayor and Libor Kozak. Whether Sherwood would ever start with two of these three remains to be seen though, but it remains an option for chasing games late on.
With Benteke’s physicality seemingly covered, the focus will turn to replacing his goals.The club may be better equipped to share the goalscoring burden this season instead of relying on one man only. We all know about Sherwood getting the best out of Adebayor during his time at Spurs and let’s hope he can do it again.
Gestede is no stranger to finding the net recently either. He netted 20 goals in the Championship for Blackburn last year bringing his total for the club to 34 in 65 games in all competition. Not a bad return. Kozak is also finding the net pre season after his return from injury and has three goals already, although the Czech is being tipped to go out on loan.
While Gestede, Adebayor, and Kozak are all big guys and good in the air they are all capable finishers too. If Villa can provide the ammunition, these players and Ayew will give Villa more than the just the previous Benteke Plan A.
Perhaps the most interesting conundrum about Villa’s many attacking additions is how they will fit into the team. Last year Gestede was regularly deployed as part of a front two alongside Jordan Rhodes. This year he is more likely to be alongside Jordan Ayew who, while versatile, is not necessarily suited to being a lone striker. Kozak is another target man fits best beside a smaller or quicker forward and it would seem that Adebayor is the only of the striking options who with his decent hold-up play has really operated as a lone striker effectively.
Sherwood has several options. The amount of strikers at the club suggests he may choose to play with two men up front, in which case Ayew would most likely partner one of the towering forwards at our disposal in some variation of a 4-4-2 formation.
Another possibility, perhaps more likely, is a 4-2-3-1 setup. This system would likely have Adebayor or Gestede up front with Ayew deployed as one of the three players behind the main target man, probably with two of Grealish, Gil, and Sinclair. Finally a 4-3-2-1 is also was a favourite of the former Spurs boss at the end of last season, and this would see Ayew beside a more creative midfielder with Adebayor and Gestede battling it out to be starting striker.
What about the old guard?
The arrival of new forwards will understandably cast doubt over those who are already at the club, so whats going to happen to them? Youngsters Callum Robinson and Jerelle Sellers will probably build on a good pre season with a loan move to a Championship side or occasional inclusion in the squad. Libor Kozak has worked hard and is a useful player but the popular forward will have to prove himself quickly if he is to remain at Villa. It would seem a bit harsh for Sherwood to exclude him completely although it’s a definite possibility, as is the already mentioned mooted loan.
It’s possible that the player who most needs to watch his place in the squad will be Gabby Agbonlahor. The former England forward has picked up a knock pre season and it is hard to see where he will fit in when he returns to fitness. New signing Ayew is more similar to him than to the other three target men and will get a chance to shine. Gabby’s role will could be as back up to Ayew, or to Villa’s wingers. While he could play as a wide man in a front three Sherwood is more inclined to use Ayew with one of the bigger forwards or in a combination with the club’s attacking midfielders who have better delivery and creativity than Agbonlahor.
As things stand the most likely scenario is that Ayew will feature regularly with some rotation of Gestede and Adebayor. Kozak may also be given a chance to challenge for a place at least as an impact sub.
With the new additions, and some rumours of even more, Gabby will need a big season if he is to have a future at his boyhood club. It remains to be seen how Aston Villa’s starting 11 will line out next week against Bournemouth, but one thing’s for sure, Villa look set to have a lot more options up front this year and that can only be a good thing.
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