It’s fair to say that Aston Villa’s return to Premier League football has been met with a fairly large dose of reality. The club is still waiting to register their first point on the board. One topic on the tongues of supporters is our striker options.
Whilst it is obviously far from panic stations after a mere two games, the pre-season optimism that filled so many supporters has taken a bit of a hit and concerns are beginning to sneak in for some.
Whilst the game against Tottenham Hotspur, Champions League finalists no less, provided almost a free hit in terms of expecting to come away with a result, the Bournemouth game felt different. Despite being an underrated side in this league, the fact remains that they travel poorly in general and had several key players unavailable. In short, it feels like it was a good chance to get our season up and running.
To say we had a poor start is an understatement. But an improvement after the break offers encouragement. However, for me, my biggest concern is that we are light on options in the striker department.
It’s fair to say that Wesley is clearly going to take some time to adapt to this league. But I should point out right now anyone writing him off at this stage is off their rocker.
But as supporters, we’re also entitled to have concerns. His sulking during the first half against Spurs was embarrassing and extremely frustrating. Especially when you consider he is 6ft 4″ and just needs to concentrate on bullying defences.
There are signs that his hold up play is going to be useful, however, and I think he looked more promising against the Cherries. But this league does not give you a chance to become acclimatised. The longer he goes without a goal, the harder for him it will be.
His mobility needs working on, especially for a team who Dean Smith wants to press from the front. There have been a couple of times where he’s looked caught out by the pace of things and left on his heels a little. Hopefully, that will come – we have to remember this is a 22-year-old kid stepping up several levels here.
Other striker options
The real concern for me is about our attacking options in general though. Jonathan Kodjia, as I wrote a couple of weeks back, shouldn’t be overlooked as a useful player for Villa this season. But in situations like on Saturday, if either the Ivorian or the Brazilian (heaven forbid both) are unavailable for section, we only have Keinan Davis to come in. And for me, he is an even more raw version of Wesley.
I think everyone would’ve liked another striking option bought in and despite links to some exciting names, nothing materialized before the transfer deadline passed. Is that going to hinder us? It’s hard to deny that we’re certainly just a suspension or injury away from being in big trouble.
The problem is that three strikers vying for one position should be plenty when playing one attacker. It’s just whether the quality of those personnel options is going to be good enough. I have to be honest and say that if I saw Davis in the starting line up, I wouldn’t be overly enamoured.
The free market gives the potential opportunity to supplement what we already have. But with Daniel Sturridge the only real option to bring in a different type of striker to what we have, it’s slim pickings.
Many would steer clear of a player with a terrible injury record and who appears to have lost his appetite for the game as well as serving a six-week ban for breaching betting rules. But there is no doubt a short term deal with a view to proving fitness may look appealing if Villa continues to experience a slow start. At the moment, it would just smack of absolute desperation and surely shatter any confidence Wesley may be building up.
Another possible option on a free would be Fernando Llorente. However with Lazio rumoured to be circling, and with him mainly operating as a target man similar to Wesley and Davis, I don’t see much point in bringing in the Spaniard.
I think we’ll find it hard to implement a Plan B this season given the lack of diversity in options we have. The irony is that Scott Hogan probably fits the bill of what we could do with, in terms of the style of player – a more mobile forward who is a willing runner. And whilst Hogan didn’t make the grade at Villa, I do think we needed to bring in someone of a similar ilk, albeit obviously an upgraded version of.
All said though, it’s seriously important not to get carried away after a couple of defeats. Perhaps things have been exacerbated by seeing things like Norwich coming into the league and seemingly finding it easier to play quick attacking football, with Teemu Pukki’s four goals so far highlighting that it is possible to come in and hit the ground running. That said, playing against a Steve Bruce inspired Newcastle United will surely help even the most barren of strikers this season.
There are signs that we’re on the right track. The second half against Bournemouth was impressive with several big chances being created.
Friday night presents another chance at Villa Park. But it won’t be easy against a strong Everton side. Let’s hope Wesley bangs in a goal at least and gets himself off the mark before the pressure builds too much.