Aston Villa are in a well documented slump and the Villa faithful's dismay has been mainly directed at their star striker Christian Benteke.
The Villains are the lowest scorers in the top four divisions of English football with just 11 league goals all season - two of which can be credited to Benteke.
Villa’s capitulation against Arsenal on Sunday summed up the club’s dismal season so far and another game without a goal leaves their current record at 612 minutes, just over 10 hours of Premier League football without finding the back of the net.
Too good for the axe?
Throughout football, managers pick their most in-form players who they feel can win them the game. However, for Villa, when Benteke is on the pitch it almost hinders their chances of picking up valuable points needed to stay in the league.
Paul Lambert is clearly aware of the 24-year-old’s severe dip in form and admitted this week that a decision may be made to take Benteke out of the starting lineup for the Chelsea clash on Saturday.
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“Will I take him out the firing line? We’ll make a decision before Saturday but there are options,” the Villa boss said, according to the Telegraph.
It is obvious that the Villa striker is slightly starved of service, but that does not give the Belgian an excuse to be lazy out on the pitch. His movement in the box has dropped severely making him a harder target to pick out.
Over recent weeks, Lambert has had a possession philosophy - a tactic which does not suit Villa or Benteke. When Villa play a counter-attacking game - their accustomed tactic for recent years - Benteke can find space as the opposition are all over the place trying to stop the fast-break, thus making the striker more effective and increasing his chance of scoring.
Due to the big man’s size, his strongest attribute is his strength and aerial ability. However, the passing game handcuffs Benteke as he has to play with his back to the oppositions goal and his only pass is to play it back to the midfield.
Benteke is currently in such bad form that he cannot even do that well. He has a pass accuracy of 69% - the second worst in the Villa team only ahead of Brad Guzan. A horrible statistic for the striker showing that the ball just is not sticking when it is sent to him.
The Villa boss tried to sign Rickie Lambert from Liverpool on Deadline Day for a fee thought to be around £5million, a sum the Birmingham side rarely reach when trying to sign players. The decision to bid for a striker obviously shows the 45-year-old’s concern for his teams survival.
Lambert said: “Christian knows that things aren’t going his way and we’re working hard to get it right.
“He’s not stupid and he knows he’s had a dip in form. This will make him stronger and he’s having a slump that all strikers have. If he can get back to what he was, he’s unplayable when he’s bang on his game.”
Villa’s side have pace throughout and they need to exploit it. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann who could both replace Benteke upfront to offer more pace and an out-ball to get behind the oppositions back four.
Play to your strengths
A starting XI of: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clarke (or Vlaar if fit), Cissokho; Delph, Westwood; Weimann, Gil, Sinclair; Agbonlahor would be ideal.
Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood can give the back four much needed protection letting Carles Gil roam free in front of the holding midfielders. With Weimann and Sinclair on either wing, Villa would have remarkable pace which can cause any Premier League defence problems.
The Chelsea game at Villa Park looks to be a routine victory for Jose Mourinho’s side. One positive for the Villains is that Diego Costa will be absent from the clash after being handed a three-match ban for his stamp on Emre Can in Chelsea’s League Cup semi-final last week.
The Midlands club need to find some sort of form over the next few weeks.
With the tactical approach Lambert is taking and his form considered, Benteke should be dropped. A spell on the bench could reignite his season and put Villa back on track. The attempt to sign Rickie Lambert may keep the striker on his heels but the club needs results now.
Time is of the essence - a decision must be reached soon.