After a good result on Saturday against Stoke, the fans’ optimism for the season has increased slightly. It was extremely encouraging to see Aly Cissokho, Philippe Senderos and Kieran Richardson, three of the five signings we have made so far, in the starting line-up; they certainly appear to have settled in quickly.
The back four looked solid, which was great to see. If all goes well, we could finally have a solid base at the back to start from and Lambert won’t need to focus too much on the defence as he can rely on the defenders to get on with their jobs effectively.
Aly Cissokho, who played at left back, had a great début game and was also effective going forward, as was Alan Hutton. The Scotland international is back in the fold after being left out for a long period of time. He has impressed in the right back position of late and has been going forward to give the team some width. The two centre backs, Vlaar and Senderos, had a great game and it looked like they could build a solid partnership. Given that we still have Okore, Clark and Baker waiting in the wings (although Baker may well be sent out on loan), it shows that we finally have strength in depth and the competition will keep every player on his toes.
One question that I find myself asking is where will the goals come from for Villa? Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak are still weeks away from coming back from injury and, even when they return, they’ll need to be bedded in slowly as both will be lacking match fitness. We could be looking at them being out for about another four or five weeks so we’ll need someone to step up and get us the goals.
My main candidate to fill the goal-scoring gap is Andreas Weimann. The Austrian international hinted last week that he hoped to play up front more often rather in a wider role but also said he would play anywhere he might be asked to. I know Weimann hasn’t exactly been prolific in recent seasons and neither has Gabby Agbonlahor but both players do chip in with goals, despite playing out wide. Although he was played out wide in most games, when Weimann did get the chance to play up top he seemed to thrive.
Just like he did for the game at Stoke, I think Lambert will probably continue with Gabby Agbonlahor up front, as he is better than Weimann at holding the ball up and winning headers. However, Weimann can run in behind the defence, seems to come alive in the box and never gives up chasing the ball, which is something defenders hate. I think playing Agbonlahor up front is probably the more logical choice but I do hope to see Weimann starting up front soon. He seems to have that goal-scoring instinct and the ability to be in the right place at the right time for a tap in – much like Darren Bent.
Bent is also another option we have. The only problem is that when we have him in the team, the other players have to work a little harder as at times he isn’t the most mobile of players, unlike Gabby Agbonlahor and Weimann who willingly close down the opposing defenders effectively. What he is, however, is a great option to have on the bench when we need someone to come on to try to nick a goal.
We finally have creativity in this team and with Carlos Sanchez set to burst into action soon, we could see players like Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood being given creative freedom to try something different and not being deployed in the disciplined roles they have been in the last two seasons.