Jores Okore projected nine months on the sidelines after his scan revealed the extent of his cruciate ligament injury was even beyond the typical six months for the injury most pessimists predicted. After being touted as the potential answer to Villa’s defensive frailties, the Danish centre-back is out for the season.
So, are Villa back to square one with their vilified defence?
For a team that can’t seem to buy a clean sheet – it’s 26 games now – this is a potentially a hammer blow. In a position where the centre-back options are a pair of academy graduates and a less-than-concentrate Ron Vlaar, the alarm bells are ringing.
There are crumbs of comfort though.
With Okore also injured in pre-season, he hadn’t had chance to become an integral part of the Villa team or any system that Lambert was working on. There is no doubt he was going to improve the potential of the Villa team, but the team as we know it, hasn’t ‘lost’ anything.
Last season was very much a baptism through fire for both Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker and they will be better players for it. So in a sense, the Villa back line is still stronger than last season due to the growing experience of these young players. We’ve already seen an improvement on last year by the same players in the first four games. Villa have played some of the top teams and when beaten, it’s only been by the odd goal.
One worry is Baker and Clark are also injury-prone and have already missed games only four games deep into the new season. Do Villa have the necessary cover? Unless Libor Kozák can pull a Dion Dublin and fill-in at centre-back, you’d think Paul Lambert will have to do something about it in the January transfer window.
During matches, certainly more cover is needed from midfield for the defence and Lambert needs to increasingly look at this in terms of his tactics. Maybe Yacouba Sylla can be used as a more out-and-out defensive midfielder?
With home form still a problem, this season was never going to be easy. The feeling was come November though, Villa could start looking upwards.
The real irony is in the incident that led to the Jores Okore injury, the Villa defender had showcased his impressive pace and made a great tackle. It was a moment you thought to yourself, ‘He looks the real deal’. Seconds later, he’s out for the season.
It’s a cruel game. Why always Villa though?Published 16 Sep 2013, 23:13 IST