BIRMINGHAM ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Darren Bent speaks to the media during a press conference to announce him signing for Aston Villa at Villa Park on January 18 2011 in Birmingham England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
From the Aston Villa Football Club website:
Darren Bent has undergone scans and he has seen a top ankle specialist this afternoon in London.
He faces up to 12 weeks on the sidelines having ruptured ankle ligaments in his left foot in the game against Wigan and he is unlikely to play again this season.
The same page highlights a video, "McLeish frustrated with finishing". And that is going to be a real problem for Villa going forward [pun not intended].
In fact, it has been an ongoing problem. Aston Villa are pretty far down the "goals for" category tied with Liverpool (a bit surprisingly) and Bolton. They have only scored more goals as a team than Swansea, QPR, Stoke, Everton, and Wigan.
Now with Bent out, Robbie Keane's loan from LA Galaxy over, and Nathan Delfouneso on loan at Leicester City, Villa have only Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey as their only senior strikers. Those two have been deployed in wide roles by McLeish this season, competing with the likes of Charles N'Zobgia, Mark Albrighton, and Stephen Ireland for playing time - and often keeping that latter triumvirate off the pitch. That makes sense as Bent is best as a lone striker, but now at least one of them will be needed in the middle of the park.
The noises coming out of Villa Park are that it is time for young Austrian striker Andreas Weimann to stake a claim. He's been praised recently by both McLeish and by Bent himself. He's scoring for fun in the reserves, netting two hat-tricks in three matches.
For fantasy purposes, Weimann makes an interesting case. For 3.18, he could be a nice enabler. Certainly I would rather gamble on his chances than pick up the even cheaper, but even less mobile, Emile Heskey.
Aston Villa's upcoming fixtures aren't all that kind, with the trip to Blackburn Rovers this weekend the best match-up of the bunch. Otherwise they host an improving Fulham before playing Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Stoke City, and Manchester United in succession. And again, even when healthy they haven't been scoring too many goals.
But for this weekend, a 4-3-3 with Agbonlahor and N'Zogbia flanking Weimann would make a ton of sense. That's the formation that both Arsenal and Manchester City used to destroy Rovers and while the personnel isn't the same, the general idea is sound. I would also love to see Stephen Ireland restored to a central play-making role with Keane vacating that role. That would put pressure on Gary Gardner and presumably Stylian Petrov (if recovered from injury) to shield Villa's defence but this is a match that Villa need to win. McLeish would be wise to go on the attack if only to send a message to Villa's supporters that he knows how and when to do so.