Darren Bent has taken a step down to the Championship since his days with Ipswich Town following the short-term loan move from Aston Villa to Brighton and Hove Albion he completed last week.
With his chances at spearheading the starting eleven for Villa in the Premier League as slim as ever, could this drop down be the start of a career revival for the 30-year-old?
Bent will link up with fellow Villa loanees Joe Bennett and Gary Gardner, joining Sami Hyypia’s men until December 29 in an emergency loan deal as the Seagulls look to bolster their attacking options.
Sitting in 18th, the Albion are four points behind Villa’s fiercest rivals in Birmingham City with only one win in the last 10 League games.
Bent was given his debut on Saturday against Fulham, a team for whom he scored three goals in 24 appearances last term as the Cottagers were relegated after a 13 year stint in the Premier League.
The former England international marked this meeting with a goal, his first since February, and cupped his ear to the travelling Fulham faithful. But, unfortunately for Bent and Brighton, the west Londoners left with three points.
Once a reliable leading man with his reputation as a deadly poacher in front of goal, Bent’s ability to maintain his once highly lauded skill set has been hindered in recent seasons by his lack of playing time at Villa Park.
Lack of faith
This is in part due to a lack of faith shown in him by Villa manager Paul Lambert, speculated to be the result of a highly publicised bust-up between the two, a claim that the Scot has denied on several occasions.
The Villa faithful have witnessed a steady decline in the the forward’s career, encountering hardship when given a chance as a part-time option up front. A shell of his former self, he is also lacking the pace and killer instinct in front of goal that saw him score nine goals in 16 league in his first season in the West Midlands.
But to be fair to Bent, Villa are not as well-rounded as they were when he first joined. Once enjoying service down both flanks from the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, the whole of Villa’s leading line have been made to suffer at the lack of ability to create chances since their departure.
Typically deploying a counter-attacking playing style, Villa’s inability to play a passing game and hold onto the ball for extended periods of time has led to Lambert's side chasing games, and rushed breaks often ending anti-climactically.
Currently the lowest scoring team in the Premier League with only six goals, the loss of a fit and experienced striker itching to prove himself once again does seem like quite a risk by Lambert.
Star striker Christian Benteke has just served the last game of his three-match ban but will still be chasing his best form after a lengthy spell out injured prior to his red card against Tottenham.
Czech striker Libor Kozak is still a long-term casualty, having aggravated an injury to his broken leg sustained in a training session last season.
With the Championship being a considerable step down from elite upper echelons of the Premier League, the difference in quality could aide Bent as he looks to regain confidence and an eye for goal that came so naturally to him in the past.
Brighton’s current top goalscorer is defender Lewis Dunk with five goals, two more than forwards Kazenga Lua Lua and Adrián Colunga. The Albion faithful will be hoping Bent can add some quality by resuming goalscoring responsibilities, taking the pressure off Lua Lua and Colunga while allowing Dunk to focus solely on his defensive duties.
With Bent in the final year of his four year contract, Lambert will be hoping that he has a
successful spell in order to raise his stocks, with a best-case scenario being the chance to ship him out in January as a result.
Villa risk losing the £24 million pound acquisition from Sunderland for free in the summer, with very little return having been made on what seemed a worthy investment by former manager Gerard Houllier in 2010.
Being so close to the end of his contract, now is Bent’s time to prove not to Villa or Lambert, but to himself and any potential suitors of his signature come next season.
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