Aston Villa: The way forward part 3 - Finding a forward line
With the painfully defensive season under Alex McLeish behind them, Aston Villa fans are looking forward to a season where the team can average at least a goal per game. The new manager Paul Lambert has a reputation for playing high-tempo attacking football, but, when looking past Darren Bent, the forward stocks looking desperately depleted. What will it take for the forward line to deliver a top half finish this season?
With the always consistent and reliable Darren Bent assured of a starting place it is up to the others to fulfil the role as his strike partner.
Gabby Agbonlahor is coming off two poor seasons after starting his career so brightly. Averaging less than a goal in every four league games across his career is hardly prolific, but under Martin O’Neill he consistently reached double figures, which is an excellent return.
One of the major problems with Agbonlahor’s performances over the past two seasons has been the persistence from managers to play him on the wing. He showed some good form there and partnering Bent in the early stages of last season, but he eventually lost confidence and began to struggle.
Gabby is fast enough and strong enough to worry most defenders in the league. In the more familiar central striking position he could be once again used to push back the defence and create space for our midfielders to work in. If Lambert does anything to emulate Martin O’Neill’s reign at Villa, returning Gabby to his glory days would be the most encouraged.
More recent academy graduates Andreas Weimann and Nathan “the Fonz” Delfouneso will also be vying for the position as Bent’s strike partner.
Weimann had a breakout season under McLeish. After Bent’s season-ending injury, he stepped up and put in some decent performances leading the line on his own. His first goal for the club, an injury time winner against Fulham, practically kept Villa in the Premier League. He will undoubtedly play a greater role this season, but can he become a 25-30 game a season striker?
Many Villa fans have given up on the Fonz making it at Premier League level. Still only 21, after a three-year contract extension in 2011, he still has the time to become the top-level striker that his youth level performances suggested. However his unsuccessful loan spells at Burnley and Leicester City suggest that the Premier League is probably a stretch for the Fonz and perhaps Lambert should look to move him on.
With a clear lack of depth in the forward department, bringing in a new signing is a must and there are a few potential signings that would help the team. Over the past few days the club has been linked with a move for Andy Carroll. The transfer fee would most likely price Villa out of a deal, it would more likely be a loan move, which would be beneficial for both Aston Villa and Liverpool. A Carroll-Bent partnership would surely produce a great goal return, as Carroll’s presence would certainly complement Bent’s poaching abilities.
With little over a month left until the start of the new Premier League season, Lambert has plenty of time to fill the void Villa have in the striking positions. Finding a player to partner Bent up front will be an important task as the current crop of strikers are either unproven or have been unreliable over the past couple of seasons. It shouldn’t be hard to make an improvement on last season; Villa fans will be hoping Lambert can bring the goals back to Villa Park.
Article by Christian Dougherty
Calling all Villa fans: Do you agree with Christian? Is finding a striker to play alongside Bent the greatest necessity for Paul Lambert this summer? Has time ran out for Delfouneso? Can Gabby ever regain his form? Whatever your views we'd love to hear from you.