Aston Villa: Will injuries force Lambert’s hand for the season's opener?
So it’s nearly here, the dawn of a new season and a new era at Villa Park.
Having seen Aston Villa’s draw with Werder Bremen on Saturday, it seems Lambert has a few selection headaches for the opener against West Ham. He would have had even more had all his squad stayed fit before August 18.
Of course, it’s rare that ever happens but still – when was the last time a Villa manager had that problem?
The squad is still thin and every Villa fan is concerned about what will happen if, heaven forbid, Darren Bent gets injured. But with that issue aside would Lambert have picked the players who are unfit to start anyway?
Starting at the back there’s Richard Dunne who’s suffering with a groin injury. Dunne has been the club’s captain, oozes international caps and has played at the highest level for a decade. Under most managers he would be certain to start if not injured but following a poor World Cup and a recovery period that seems to extend after each injury – which happens to every player as he gets older – I’m not sure he would’ve got the nod.
Lambert seems intent on making sure every player proves his worth and although Ron Vlaar and Ciaran Clark looked a little frail at the back against Bremen, he seems to be happy with that defensive pairing.
Moving on to midfield, Marc Albrighton will miss the first few games with a broken foot, which is a massive blow for him because he would’ve been keen to make a good first impression. But with Charles N’Zogbia also in the hunt for a starting place, along with Fabian Delph returning from injury and Barry Bannan playing well pre-season, he possibly would have struggled to make the bench.
The big talking point for me, however, is the absence of Gabby Agbonlahor. He has been a huge part of Villa’s plans for the past five years and always talks highly of his home club.
However, last season he went quiet a lot, especially when the team were up against it. That had a lot to do with tactics, formation and injuries, but it still seemed he was less and less interested the longer the season progressed.
With Bent possibly playing as a lone striker or, more likely, alongside someone like Andreas Weimann, it will be interesting to see if he walks back into the team after shaking off his latest knee injury.
No-one would argue about him being Villa through and through but perhaps a fight to get back into the team is what he needs.
A lot will depend on how Villa start the season, but I’m not sure any of Villa’s injured players would have been guaranteed a first team place.
It’s great to have players of that quality in reserve though, waiting in the wings, ready to push whoever is chosen in the starting line-up.
The fact no-one really knows how Villa will line up on Saturday is perhaps the most exciting part of all.
Article by James Fisher
Calling all Villa fans: How do you think Villa will line-up for the curtain raiser against West Ham United? What is Villa's strongest XI? What are your hopes for the season ahead? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.
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