After a week of international football, it is time for Aston Villa’s squad to regroup and refocus on their club football once more as they face a tough trip to Fulham on Saturday.
It had been a welcome break for manager Paul Lambert, who had suffered a less than impressive start at Villa Park. With Villa suffering their worst ever start to a Premier League campaign, and a developing feud between himself and star striker Darren Bent distracting attention, Lambert may have hoped for the break to last a little longer. Lambert had hoped the decision to remove the captain’s armband would be a weight off of Bent’s shoulders, but that has not been the case as his poor form has resulted in him losing his place to fellow strikers Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke.
Benteke had impressed on his first appearance following his move from Belgium club Genk, scoring after coming off the bench against Swansea City. Since the Swansea victory he hasn’t quite found his stride, and looks most likely to lose his place in the first 11 for the upcoming fixture at Craven Cottage. With a very young squad, Benteke was one of the few Aston Villa players to be involved in a competitive international match, and it has been a week he has greatly excelled. As the England Under 21’s found out on Tuesday night, Serbia is not an easy place to go and play your football whatever age, but Benteke was not phased as he opened the scoring for his team with a fine header, looking a menace throughout the match. Belgium then faced Scotland the following Tuesday, and it was Benteke yet again who broke the deadlock for his country, and once again it was a well taken header that would lead to a 2-0 victory for Belgium.
With Benteke’s height and presence, he can be a menace to any defence. Two goals in two matches for the young Belgium may well guarantee his place in Villa’s starting line up against Fulham on Saturday. If that is the case, Lambert may well have to drop Villa’s longest serving player Gabriel Agbonlahor if he is to reinstate Darren Bent to the starting 11, a decision that will seem harsh on the forward who grabbed a brace away to the champions Manchester City just a few weeks ago.
Paul Lambert must focus on picking the team he believes will be the greatest threat to a Fulham side who have started the campaign relatively well despite the losses of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey at the end of August. Whether that will include Darren Bent remains to be seen, but the club’s record signing now knows since his relegation to the bench that he must perform every week if he is to get back into the first 11, and back into the England international set-up.
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