On Wednesday, winger Marc Albrighton finalised a 28-day loan move to Wigan Athletic. Although it will only be for a month it will at least provide the player with more first-team opportunities as he aims to force his way back into the reckoning at Aston Villa, having fallen a long way down the pecking order.
Admittedly, a throat operation is partly behind the fact that he has made just one appearance in all competitions this season, but in reality, he would have rarely been given a look-in in the Premier League had he been fit. In Paul Lambert’s preferred system, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann are first-choice whenever they are available, with Aleksandar Tonev and Jordan Bowery also appearing more likely than Albrighton to feature in the Premier League.
Wigan are also a team with competition for places in the wide areas, but for the 23-year-old Albrighton, it is also a chance to prove his fitness after missing much of the last year due to injury. The evidence of his previous spell in the Villa first-team is that he is a player who needs a run of games to show his true potential.
It was something he showed in flashes under Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish, but never on a consistent basis in his 81 appearances for the first-team, and that is perhaps what has held him back in his early career, despite his obvious talent.
Albrighton should also benefit under the guidance of Owen Coyle, who encourages attacking football, while also aiding a side that has struggled for goals somewhat in the Championship since their relegation. That’s surprising considering their attacking options, which include target men such as Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
Meanwhile, two and-a-half months into Darren Bent’s season-long loan at Fulham, he has thrown up no surprises in terms of playing style and goal scoring, but it has provided the out-of-favour Villa man with what he was craving – regular first-team football.
Bent’s performances have been inconsistent in a side that has struggled for form, and he has managed to score three goals in 10 appearances. It looks unlikely that the former England striker will ever play for Villa again, certainly not in the remainder of Lambert’s reign, so a good season for Fulham could land him a permanent deal away from Villa Park.
In terms of the players who will be turning out for Aston Villa in coming weeks, Saturday’s trip to West Ham United marks the beginning of an important few games against sides who are likely to be around them in the table towards the end of the campaign. Manchester United are the only team to have finished in the Premier League’s top seven last season to take on Villa before the turn of the year, so a decent points haul is imperative.
And although West Ham are one of the toughest opponents to break down, Villa will fancy their chances of taking something from Upton Park, particularly as it is away from home, where they have experienced much greater success so far this season.
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