Aston Villa Focus – Plenty of creative options for Lambert

When Paul Lambert took charge of Aston Villa, his options in terms of playing staff were very limited. With Richard Dunne, Marc Albrighton and Gabriel Agbonlahor all picking up injuries in pre-season, along with captain Stiliyan Petrov still recovering from acute Leukaemia, it was no surprise to see them suffer a poor start to the season in the opening two fixtures. The draw earned away to Newcastle was a huge confidence boost for the squad and Lambert, and with his transfer deadline day deals raring to go, Lambert’s lions are starting to take shape.

It was clear in both opening fixtures for Villa that creativity was a problem, with the side barely able to create anything for lone striker Darren Bent in 180 minutes of football. Agbonlahor’s return to the side as a late substitute against Newcastle added pace to the front line, and Christian Benteke’s arrival from Genk will now also add some much needed height. Although former striker Emile Heskey did not offer too much of a goal threat to oppositions, not many defenders enjoyed playing against him, with his physical presence always a danger. Lambert is hoping that the 6’3″ Benteke will offer that same physical presence, but also have goal scoring as one of his assets, as his record at Genk was better than one goal every two games last campaign. Although Lambert enjoys playing attractive possession football, working defences from left and right to create gaps for the attacking players to flourish, sometimes an out-ball is needed to relieve pressure and Lambert will be hoping Benteke will provide that outlet. With Andreas Weimann impressing in his performances so far this season as well, along with the arrival of Jordan Bowery from lower league side Chesterfield, Lambert has plenty of attackers to choose from this season.

His options in midfield have now also been strengthened with the arrival of Crewe Alexandra captain Ashley Westwood for around £3m. Aged only 22, his potential has been there for all to see for quite some time, and Crewe boss Steve Davis was very reluctant to let such a young talent leave his squad. Westwood will be available for Villa’s next game against Swansea on Saturday, but may not walk straight into the first team despite his talents. Fellow new signing Karim El Ahmadi has settled very well at Villa Park, with the Moroccan midfielder earning player of the month for August as voted by the Villa fans. His place is almost cemented into the team, and with Barry Bannan, Chris Herd, Fabian Delph, Steven Ireland and now Westwood competing for the other central midfield role, Lambert will have a tough choice to narrow down his midfield partnership. A 4-5-1 formation may help to allow an extra central midfielder to play, but will almost certainly limit the attacking football he prefers to play.

With Brad Guzan putting in a man of the match performance against Newcastle last time out, Lambert also has healthy competition for the No. 1 jersey this season. Aston Villa fans have been used to seeing their options diminish as transfer windows have come to a close in recent years, but this season it is a very different story. Chairman Randy Lerner has backed his new man with almost £20m in transfer fees, and now it will be up to the Scotsman to shape his team to get Villa back to former glories.

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