Prior to the loss to Sheffield United on Saturday, many Villa fans were wondering whether Helenius would get a much awaited first team start. I for one really wanted to see the Dane starting and showing what he has to offer. I felt that he should start as he has a point to prove and believed a start would hopefully drive him on and give him the desire to play well and ultimately help win the match.
So far this season, Helenius has seen very little first team action with his biggest chances coming from cameos in the Capital One Cup. He was starting to look like the most pointless of all of Lambert’s signings. With the deal for Kozak going through in that same window it seemed as though he would struggle to get in to the squad even then. He then fell behind Jordan Bowery in the pecking order with Bowery being brought on off the bench at the end of games while Helenius was reduced to reserve team football.
For me, the biggest sign that he’d been almost cast aside was when we were 2-1 down away at Stoke and Lambert decided to bring a forward on. At this point, the logical thing to do would’ve been to take off a central midfield player and bring Helenius in to bolster the attack. Instead, Paul opted to take off winger Tonev and bring on Bowery, making him play the remainder of the game out wide as a makeshift winger. This left a lot of fans, including myself, asking what Helenius’ role at the club is.
Nicklas Helenius had impressed in pre-season when playing ‘in the hole’ just off the strikers. He was creating chances and threading through dangerous passes consistently in every game he featured in. I know that pre-season friendlies are very different to competitive matches but that really is all we have to go by (other than when Vertonghen decided to pull his shorts down) when commenting on Helenius.
When he came on off the bench on Saturday, I was really hoping he’d play well, mainly because we were losing 1-0 at the time and none of our players were looking good. Like all good attacking players do when they come on off the bench, he helped swing some momentum Villa’s way and got himself the equalising goal, which will now hopefully prove to Lambert he deserves more game time.
It’s fair to say that despite not being on the pitch for long Helenius was one of the best players for Villa against Sheffield United. This made me wonder why he hasn’t been getting picked above Bowery or even Weimann, who has been in poor form all season and doesn’t look like a patch on the player he was last year.
Surely Lambert has to give Helenius more first team action now, doesn’t he?