Now I’m sure a lot of you have seen the latest links regarding Championship hot-shot Charlie Austin, a man who has already scored 15 times this season for Burnley. I first saw the source on an article by Sky Sports, and here is a little section of it for those who haven’t seen it yet:
‘The former Swindon man has established himself as one of the best strikers outside the Premier League with his goalscoring exploits for Swindon and Burnley over the last couple of years.
Newcastle and Aston Villa are both thought to be keeping tabs on Austin’s situation as they weigh up moves for the striker when the January transfer window reopens.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew is thought to be a long-term admirer of Austin having watched him in action on several occasions, while Villa chief Paul Lambert could be in the marker for striking reinforcements as doubts continue to surround the future of Darren Bent.’
Now we all know how Bent has his detractors, but surely even those of you who despise the bloke would be a teeny bit annoyed if we replaced him with a Premiership rookie? I watch a lot of Championship football and love the league. There is a lot of quality and there is no doubt that Austin is currently one of the hotter properties around. As a fan of Bent I want to see him stay at Villa for as long as possible though, and I hate the thought of losing him and replacing him with someone who may or may not be a success in the Premiership.
If the following were to happen, we’d be left with a main quartet of Gabby, Benteke, Weimann and Austin. All have qualities yes, but goals might be a bit of a worry. Bent is a proven goalscorer, and having already bought two young strikers (Benteke and Bowery) and having a talented young forward already at the club (Weimann) surely we need to keep players who have proven they can cut it at the highest level.
Lambert clearly likes a certain type of player, and that’s fine, but we need a certain number who know what the Premiership is about me thinks. Austin wouldn’t come cheap, with former team-mate Jay Rodriguez going for around £8 million. At 23, and if he continues to bang in the goals you have to think he would go for perhaps a similar amount, maybe a bit less.
I’m not saying Austin doesn’t have the talent to come in and do well, because he may well do. It’s clearly a big risk though, and might be one we can’t afford to take. I’d much rather stick with what we have up top, get Bent reintegrated into the side and strengthen areas of real need.
We’ve talked about the central defenders at the club a lot in recent times, and they’ve popped up again today with Ron Vlaar discussing how he feels his partnership with Ciaran Clark is going (quotes appeared in the Express and Star):
“It is getting better and better but we still need to improve,”
“We talk about it a lot together and I think everybody has to improve. If you believe you can then you can do it every day. It is a long way but we have to keep it up and move forward.
“The partnership with Ciaran is good but I think we have to better it, for the team and for ourselves. I think we can work on that every day and that is what we are doing.
“Communication can always be better and we talk to each other a lot about moments in the game, situations that have happened and what can happen in future. We always try to improve.”
“We didn’t play that bad against Tottenham and we actually had some control in the game but we have to score and try and get clean sheets.
“It is a disappointment because of the loss but we have to look forward to the next game which is now two weeks because of the international calendar. We have to change that luck and work hard for it.”
It’s pretty clear that the player sees room for improvement in the partnership, and you can certainly see that at times in the way they play. Clark is still relatively untested, at least week in and week out, and previously played a lot of his football at Villa further up the field. It’s still early days in their partnership, and at times it looks like it has potential to work really well. I wrote a few days ago how I’d keep him in for the time being, even when Dunne returns and I stick by that at the moment.
So when Dunne returns, we have the four following choices….Vlaar, Dunne, Clark and Baker. Not too bad on the face of it, and all four have differing skills and qualities. As already mentioned I’d go with Vlaar and Clark for now, because much like the manager, we should look longer term, and Clark has the talent to start for many years to come. That’s not to say I don’t rate the others, and think they could all do a good job, but at the minute that’s my choice.
How about you folk? Baker got some love the other day in a separate post in the comments, and Dunne on his day can still be a top top player. Much like with the rest of the squad, it’s nice to have some real options and some real depth.
I’ve always been a fan of Ciaran Clark, and to be honest it’s always been a bit of mystery to me why he hasn’t featured more often for Ireland. I can’t pretend to be an expert on their national team, and they usually have a decent defensive record (barring the Euro’s) with somewhat forgotten Villa man Richard Dunne usually saving his best form for the boys in green. Add that to the fact that Clark has rarely been used week in and week out prior to this season, and perhaps it makes more sense.
Anyway following his run of games to start the season, Clark has been called up to the Ireland squad after they were hit with a few withdrawals. Giovanni Trapattoni is apparently facing a bit of an injury crisis ahead of two games against Germany and the Faroe Islands, so hopefully Clark gets a chance. I seem to remember him speaking previously about the desire to feature more often for his country, and he might get the chance in the coming weeks.
I do rate the player, but as mentioned previously I’m really interested to see what Lambert might do when Dunne comes back to full fitness. Long term I still see Clark as a central defender, but I wouldn’t be opposed to him playing in defensive midfield against some teams. We’re certainly lacking one, and Clark has the talent to succeed in the role. He can defend, which is kind of a pre-requisite, but is also very comfortable on the ball. Going forward he also pops up with a few goals, and we could certainly do with some more of those. Food for thought anyways.
Well done to Clark, and hopefully he can seize this opportunity, and at the very least impress Trapattoni and co in training.
I didn’t really expect us to go to Tottenham and get a result. They’re on the up, have a side full of quality and don’t lose too often at home. So this piece isn’t really reactionary to today’s game, rather just a look at the bigger picture.
I wrote on our various social media streams, that personally I would have started Bent today. Obviously the manager calls the shots, but I hope it was for footballing, rather than personal reasons. He scored two in two prior to today, and without him we just don’t look like threatening too much, perfectly summed up by Benteke’s missed sitter. Benteke does have qualities, clearly, but maybe it might be best for him to be used as an impact sub at this point of his career. We saw how well it worked against Swansea, and it could be an option in the future. Players like Andi Weimann, who to be fair has done little wrong, have been frozen out a bit.
We’re kind of in a bit of a catch 22 situation at the moment. With a new manager and new players it’s naturally going to take time for things to settle. Unfortunately in the Premiership we’re not going to be allowed this kind of luxury, and this has been summed up by our inconsistent performances. Looking at the games played so far, on paper at least they haven’t been too bad. Coming up though we’ve got some humdingers, topped off by consecutive games against, Man United, Man City and Arsenal. Ouch.
I think individually Lambert’s signings have by and large done okay. There are certainly some areas where we struggle though, with midfield still a particular worry. El Ahmadi is great on the ball, but struggles in other areas. I’m still not convinced with Delph. He’s almost guaranteed a yellow card every game he plays, and they normally arrive early meaning he’s standing on eggshells for the rest of the game. For all his detractors, I still don’t think we properly replaced Reo-Coker, and we’re clearly missing a defensive midfielder.
So looking at the original question about whether it’s time to panic, and I don’t believe it is yet. International breaks are annoying, but this one has come at a great time for us. With few international players we’ll have the core of the squad together, meaning Lambert can really get to work. Our next few fixtures are against Fulham, who might be tough to beat at Craven Cottage, and then at home against Norwich….think Lambert might be up for that one. Following that is another grudge match against MON and Sunderland. Again tough, but winnable.
We’re only seven games into the season, and I think things look better than they did last year. As simple as it sounds, we just need some more points on the board.
We touched on this subject yesterday when looking at who might line up next to Ron Vlaar when Richard Dunne returns to full fitness, and in the interim Ciaran Clark has offered his views on the subject. This appeared on the official site:
“When you look at the squad now, no-one can take a place for granted at all.
“There’s so much competition and you can see that every day in training.
“Everyone wants a place in the squad and that can always be good for Villa.
“Dunney is brilliant. He’s been there quite a while and I’ve learned so much from him.
“I’m hoping I can keep learning from him. I’m sure Dunney will be a part of it.
“I’m sure he will help the young lads improve their careers as well.”
The first line is the one that jumps out, and it is so refreshing to finally see a villa squad containing some real options. I’m a fan of the younger players we have at the club, but it wasn’t ideal to see so many of them filling the bench as we saw last campaign. Against West Brom we had some real quality who didn’t make the starting eleven, and to be able to call on Bent, N’Zogbia and Bannan from the bench ain’t no bad thing.
With regards to Clark and Dunne, I’m really intrigued to see what the manager does. We know he’s not afraid to make big decisions, and if he annoys a player doing so then so be it. I’m a big, big fan of Clark, as I know a lot of you are, and I still see him as our centre-back for years to come, and quite possibly Villa captain sometime in the future. I called for him to be given a chance this season, and despite a few mistakes, he hasn’t done too badly. He is in a new partnership with Vlaar, and these things always take a bit of time.
I would have had no complaints had Dunne followed Collins and others out of Villa Park this past summer, but he’s still here, and you can be sure that Lambert wouldn’t take any of the messing around that might have occurred under previous managers. He can still be a top defender on his day, but maybe as he’s getting on a bit, these days appear less frequently.
You’d figure Vlaar will start the majority of games, and I’d expect Clark to keep his place alongside him for a while yet. We also have Baker as another option, and as mentioned it’s just nice to have some real depth.
Would you stick with Clark when Dunne returns to full fitness? Or is there another option you’d prefer to see?
We asked the question earlier on today regarding which summer signing has impressed you most up until this point of the season (Link), and there were a number of different answers as you’d expect. One man that kept popping up though was Brett Holman, and the Aussie has quickly won over the Villa faithful. Here is a little selection of the praise that went his way:
‘Brett Holman, he never stops running, he chases the ball down, gets in good positions and plays with Villa passion #avfc’
‘Holman I think is a brilliant signing’
‘Holman. Well done McLeish!!’
‘Brett Holman for me,an old fashioned non stop, up and at em midfielder whose full of action and involved in everything’
‘Holman cant believe Mcleish signed him, great signing’
Many fans already view Holman’s signing as one of the only good things to come out of the McLeish era, and anyone who works as hard as he does for the team is always going to be popular. He scored a few belters in preseason, and the signs are there that he’s close to grabbing his first competitive goal for us sooner rather than later. The player himself has been talking to the official site, and here is a selection of what he had to say:
“It could always be better. I could have scored two goals on Sunday but the keeper made two great saves, so it could always be better.
“You just have to try to do the right things and everybody has to fight hard for their spot. That’s my main aim.
“You have got to get into those positions and in the first few games I haven’t had those opportunities,”
“They came up against West Brom and you have to pull the trigger and if you don’t try you’ll never know.
“I was running to the corner flag celebrating after the second one but he pulled off a great save.
“All credit to him but it was unlucky for me. I think everybody tries to score goals.
“It is something you have to try and the keeper made some great saves unfortunately for me.”
Good to hear, and he was pretty unlucky against the Baggies. I’m still not sure where his absolute best position is, but given the flexibility we often see under Paul Lambert, he should have few worries keeping his place, when you consider the good he brings to the team.
As proven in our small, but scientific study, he’s already proving popular with the Villa faithful. If he does start adding goals to his game though, you think his popularity will start to sky rocket.
Having played six games so far this season, plus a couple in the cup, I’m pretty interested to hear which of our new signings has impressed you most so far?
We signed a fair few in the summer, and as we wrote previously it’s nice to see some real quality and depth on our substitute bench, certainly makes a welcome change. Here is a list of the signings, with most of them already making an impact:
Karim El Ahmadi
Looking at it closely, and it’s quite hard to pick out a candidate. There are a few who haven’t really been given a chance yet (Westwood, Bowery) and a couple who have only played a few games (Bennett and Benteke), though this doesn’t necessarily rule them out from the esteemed, and imaginary UTV best signing award.
I’ve been impressed with the top four in this list and they all bring a lot to the table. El Ahmadi just oozes quality, and has provided a calm head and good distributor in the middle of the park, something we sorely miss with Stan out. I’d still like for him to really stamp his authority on the game at times, but it has been an encouraging start for the player.
Holman has also begun to be noticed by the wider footballing world, and after Sunday I’m convinced Gary Neville has a bit of a man crush on the Australian international. We all know what he brings, and that is a great will to win and desire to get involved, and his amazing work ethic has been well received by the Villa faithful. He lacks a bit of quality at times, but I think that will improve, and hopefully we see him getting amongst the goals sooner rather than later. He’s perfectly capable as we saw in preseason.
I have been pretty impressed with Lowton in the right back role, and after the tough time we had filling the position last season, it’s nice to see some stability. He’s adapted pretty seamlessly to the rigours of the Premiership, and save for a couple of mistakes he hasn’t looked out of place. He gets forward well, and as we saw against Swansea he can strike a good ball.
Ron Vlaar was a fan favourite when he was linked, and the big Dutchman has done pretty darn well since coming in. He was correctly named captain, and has impressed overall to date. The partnership with Clark has looked a bit ropey at times, and I’m interested to see what happens when Dunne comes back to full fitness. He has a surprising turn of speed, and as you’d expect is pretty dominant in the air. I think he was unlucky with the goal conceded against West Brom, though I’m sure some will think he might have done better. As I say though overall the player has done well.
For me, and as I mentioned it’s a tough one, it would probably at the moment be between Lowton and Vlaar, with maybe Lowton shading it. Vlaar has a decent amount of experience, but for Lowton to step up from league one and not really look out of place is an impressive achievement. Still at the end of the day, it’s nice that a number of players are doing well….can only bode well for the Villa!
How about you folks? As per would love to hear your thoughts.
When it comes to Darren Bent, there are few current Villa players who spilt opinion like he does. There are those (I include myself in this group) who think we’re lucky to have a player like this at the Villa, and for all his flaws, there are few better at actually scoring goals. There are those on the other hand who view the player as a bit of a liability, and cite his apparent bad attitude and other reasons as to why they might dislike the man.
I’m not here to have a go at anyone, but for me Bent would start every game. He was clearly annoyed at being dropped, and the whole captaincy thing, and so he should be and as some pointed out, it might just give the player a bit of a wake up call. I was pleased with his reaction, but we shouldn’t read too much into it. You’d hope that any player would be annoyed to be dropped to the bench, and it’s good to see that the captaincy meant that much to him.
We’ve written it before, and it’s a classic footballing cliché but Bent can still act as a captain on the pitch, and taking a look at how young most of our side is, he’s certainly one of our more senior players, both in terms of age and stature.
Anyway back to the subject matter, and there were a fair few who believed that Bent had some clause written into his contract insisting he must start every game. I had forgotten about it before big Villa man (and the artist formally known as AVFC Central) Dan Ward, tweeted the following:
‘so darren bent doesn’t really have a special contract clause? huh, that’s so weird, it seemed such a legit claim. #itk’
I’m guessing he hasn’t then, or Lambert just doesn’t care about it (which wouldn’t surprise me either) and as we’ve already seen with the Given/Guzan incident, the gaffer doesn’t mess about.
I expected Bent to start yesterday, but I respect the managers decision. Gabby and Benteke linked really well against Man City, and it would have been harsh had either been dropped. It’s just nice to have some options, and that bench we had yesterday must have been one of our strongest in seasons. To bring on players with the talent of N’Zogbia, Bent and Bannan is pretty nice.
We’re slowly getting there I feel, and the tougher fixtures (on paper at least) coming up will tell us a lot. I still expect Bent to be a big part of this season, and as we’ve seen with his two goals this campaign, provide him with the service, and he usually does alright.
The lovely people at Unibet have asked me to write Villa fan previews for our televised matches this season, and we touched on it in a post the other day….we’re just looking for two wins in a row. To get it against the Baggies would make it just that little bit more special.
Trying to predict a Paul Lambert team is a pretty hard task, because as we’ve seen with the dropping of Given for Guzan, our new manager isn’t afraid of making the big decisions. That said, we’re close to a full strength squad, with only Stephen Ireland looking like he’ll miss out through injury. We finally have real competition for places after Lambert bought well in the summer, and I’d expect a few changes from our great result against Man City in the cup.
It’s never straightforward supporting the Villa, as we have a knack for being maddingly inconsistent. A poor start to the season was followed with two good results against Newcastle and Swansea, meaning fans went into the Southampton game with real hope. Naturally we got tonked and ended up losing 4-1 before going on to beat the league champions 4-2 on their own patch. I hope we don’t see a repeat of last season, when we beat Chelsea away 3-1 before losing to Swansea at home a few days later. All we’re asking for is two wins in a row!
West Brom finished ahead of us for the first time in years last season, and the Baggies faithful haven’t been shy in letting us know. The home game last season was a controversial affair. Things started swimmingly after an early Darren Bent penalty put us 1-0 up, but Chris Herd was then sent off (almost a year later and I’m still not sure why) and West Brom went on to win 2-1. The away game was a much cagier affair, finishing 0-0, with a last minute wonder save from Shay Given essentially keeping us in the division. Villa fans are desperate for the three points this weekend.
For my three top bets for the match, and a predicted starting eleven, feel free to check out the rest of the article here: Unibet Fan Preview
Random headlines usually equal stat time, and the boys at AVFC Stats have once again thrown up a few gems for us to take a look at. The first one concerns Darren Bent, and to me was a bit of a surprise:
‘Of strikers in the Premier League only Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters & Carlton Cole have won more aerial duels than Darren Bent’s 16′
Now Crouch and Cole, you might expect to be up near the top in this kind of stat, and Walters gets about a bit as well. For Bent to be near the top though is pretty encouraging I feel, and shows a willingness to get involved and fight for the team, an element that perhaps some people think he might have lacked previously. We saw on Saturday how effective it can be, with Bent winning the initial header that forced Williams into making that very welcome mistake.
As mentioned in our previous post, Bent put in probably his best display of the season against Swansea, and hopefully he can build on that. In the future and as Benteke further adjusts to life in the Premiership we might see the roles switched a bit, with Bent benefiting from the Belgium internationals prowess in the air.
On to the next and it concerns Karim El Ahmadi and Brett Holman, two players who have made pretty positive starts to their Villa careers:
‘Only 3 Premier League players have committed more fouls than Karim El Ahmadi and Brett Holman (10 each) this season. Eager’
Again I have little complaints with seeing stuff like this. For too long we’ve been far too ‘nice’ a team, and I like seeing players prepared to mix things up and get stuck in. Hopefully it doesn’t cost us with regards to red cards etc but it’s refreshing to see these two, both new to the Premiership and the club, fighting for the cause. As mentioned they’ve both started the season well, and I think there could be lots more to come from the both of them.
The last stat involves man of the moment Christian Benteke, who in a short space of time on the weekend really got us Villans excited:
‘Despite only playing 29 mins of Premier League action Christian Benteke’s average of 3 shots per game is most of any Villa player. Impact’
He could have easily scored at least twice in this short amount of time, after being set up by Bent’s intelligent header and then scoring with the harder opportunity and just caused lots of problems after his introduction. He really looks like his game will be suited to the Premiership, and I think he could develop a very nice partnership with Bent….exciting times!
To finish with today, just a quick note that Matt Lowton and Ron Vlaar were statistically the best right back and centre back in the league this weekend.
Keep it up fellas and UTV!