How Will Aston Villa Cope Without Injured Striker Christian Benteke?
He slipped as he was feeling for his marker Sebastian Bassong during a goal kick and went down in agonising pain—sending chills down the spines of Villa fans everywhere.
Paul Lambert confirms Christian Benteke will be out for four-six weeks. Better news than he first feared. #AVFC— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) September 24, 2013
Libor Kozak came on to replace him and scored within minutes to give the claret and blue charges a vital three-point haul, but Paul Lambert must now sit down and work out his options in the wake of the Belgian's notable absence.
It's fair to say Villa's young squad rode Benteke's rich vein of form to Premier League safety last season, and although those around him have done a lot of growing up in the last 12 months, there's no doubt the former Genk man is an integral part of the side.
Lambert knew that, and while the threat of losing Benteke reared its ugly head during the summer, the Scot contacted Libor Kozak to check on his availability very early on.
"We've been on this one for the last few months, trying to bring him to the Club, so I'm delighted to get it across the line," the manager told Aston Villa's official website upon unveiling the giant Czech striker.
Benteke and Kozak are a close physical match and play similar football—this man was the No. 20's replacement if he had defected to White Hart Lane in June.
Kozak needs to adapt, that much is clear. The culture shift isn't a problem, he can look after himself, but he needs to settle into the rhythm of this Villa side, learn when to hold it, when to flick it and where to look for his first, second and third pass options.
Signing the Czech international came as a shock to most fans—largely due to the fact the club didn't use the £7 million to sign a No. 10 instead—but this is the sort of injury that vindicates a purchase early on.
With Benteke categorically out of the setup for at least one month, Kozak has the chance to bed himself and make it very difficult for his Belgian colleague to break back into the XI.
Current evidence—that being 65 minutes against the Canaries and 45 at home to Tottenham in the League Cup—suggests he's not on the same page as his midfield yet, and in many ways looks incredibly similar to Benteke at this stage last season.
The decision to pick up Kozak late in the window was a blow to Nicklas Helenius, who had been signed earlier in the summer from AaB in the Danish Superliga, but ultimately not a surprise.
The beanpole striker had arrived with great size but not strength, and Danish football aficionados' opinions that he didn't relish an aerial duel were confirmed during preseason.
He appears to be set for a wide or withdrawn role under Lambert rather than as an all-out striker, while Gabby Agbonlahor is now essentially a winger and Andi Weimann's work rate is too important to have him play in a true forward's role.
The game plan does not need to change, and Lambert will tell his side to see Kozak as Benteke in a different shirt number. The team have to go through the same growing pains as they did with the Belgian, but each of them stand a significantly improved footballer in comparison to this time last year.
Patience, not panic, is required for the duration of October for the Villa faithful.
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