Aston Villa Focus – Helenius struggling to make an impact

For Nicklas Helenius, one of seven summer signings, things have not yet panned out in the way he might have hoped. He has made just four substitute appearances, and has rarely been seen in the Premier League despite the recent injury to first-choice striker Christian Benteke. Now, with the Belgian back to full fitness, he looks set to spend most the coming weeks continuing to warm the Aston Villa bench.

In the intervening period, deadline day arrival Libor Kozak has been leading the line and he has not made an immediate impact, despite scoring the winner at Norwich City. In the previous three games, Kozak has been more of a peripheral figure, suggesting that Helenius was not quite ready to start games in the Premier League in the eyes of manager Paul Lambert.

The Dane arrived from Aalborg as a highly-rated striker back in June, for £1.2m. He had already shown some promise, earning two senior international caps. But with Villa it looks as though he have to bide his time to gain regular first-team opportunities, finding himself down the pecking order, as there is only room for one central striker or target man in Lambert’s system.

He still might have expected more than the mere 39 minutes of action he has so far been afforded in the Premier League, with little time to make an impression in the defeat to Liverpool in August. His other substitute appearance came in the victory at Norwich, but he did not see much of the ball as the Canaries piled on the pressure in the final half-hour.

The step-up from the Danish league to the Premier League is a very large one, however, and Helenius will have to wait patiently for his chance as he is clearly one for the future. Having two fairly similar players with him at the club is difficult, and as the Express and Star reports, the 22-year-old has acknowledged that it will be a challenge to break into the starting XI this season.

He said: “i>At AaB I got better and better and at the end I was good enough to play from the start every match. I am confident I can do it at Aston Villa too. I would be very satisfied if I get 15 to 20 matches (from the bench) this season. The goals will come when they come. I know that I can score if I get the chance, I am not worried about that.

An outing as a substitute is likely to be the best Helenius can hope for on Saturday, when Villa take on Everton. It is important not to lose this game, as they cannot afford another home defeat, with away success not guaranteed. Relying on away form is a dangerous game to play in any league, let alone the Premier League.

It will be another difficult fixture of what has been a very demanding start to the campaign, and the supporters will be crying out for more end product following the defeat to Tottenham last time out. Thankfully, Benteke’s comeback should give Villa a better chance in that regard.

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