One of the recurring storylines after the loss to West Ham last weekend was the need for the team to be more creative. It seems, from what we've seen, that the team is equipped to play possession football, but that they may have trouble capitalizing on their time with the ball. While support may come before the transfer window closes, it likely won't fulfill every need the team has.
This means that Paul Lambert is going to have to make do with pretty much what he has on hand now. This is unquestionably an improved team from the one that we saw last year, and is thus clearly capable of avoiding the drop. But I imagine that we'd all like to see more than just avoiding the drop. Therefore, this week's question is about the optimization of the team as it is currently constructed. With that in mind:
This week's question: Which player on Aston Villa is most underutilized and how could that be corrected?
You'll find our answers after the jump, and we hope to find yours in the comments.
Aaron: Jean Makoun is the obvious answer, but as much as I liked watching him play I don't really blame Lambert for not making more of an interest in whether or not he's an Aston Villa player. That's just a weird situation and I have little doubt there's something else going on to which we aren't privy. With that in mind, I'll go with Charles N'Zogbia. That might seem weird, seeing as how he was a regular feature in preseason and played the majority of the game on Sunday, but hear me out; I'm increasingly of the opinion that N'Zogbia's biggest problem is a fragile ego. Some might say that there's no place on this team for players like that, but I'm firmly of the opinion that Villa isn't in a position to be so principled. N'Zogbia is a tremendously gifted player that is likely more talented than any of the other attacking threats on this team. If making him more of a focal point and coddling him - horror of horrors - just a little bit can help him perform to his full potential, you almost have to do it.
Andrew: I have a feeling a lot of people are going to say Bannan so I'll take a different angle and say a fit Gabby is being used poorly. When he's fit I'm really hoping Lambert puts him at forward with Bent and puts an end to this Gabby As A Winger experiment once and for all. While his speed helps him get past tired defenders he can't get an accurate ball in to save his life. He should be up front again. He deserves at least a run of matches to see if he can rediscover the magic.
Gareth: We're leaving Bannan for Kirsten, right? Cool.
I'll say Darren Bent is underutilized. He's a poacher that can't create his own chances, and he was having to drop way deeper than I'm comfortable with in the season opener against West Ham. People calling for depth at striker aren't wrong, but if finding creative players isn't the first priority before September 1st, it'll be another frustrating year for Aston Villa's new captain.
Kirsten: Hey guys, what if I wanted to not say Bannan?
Seriously, though, if Bazza is not a starter he is being underutilized. Period. He is one player on the team who can provide consistent creativity -- plus, he's finally starting to learn that sometimes creativity is not what is required, and he can make the short pass rather than try to dribble his way out of trouble or do something that has a 10% chance of working out. He can read the game and he knows how to orchestrate it.
I think Lambert's issue right now is how to play Baz in an overly crowded midfield. Well, provided KEA is as good as we think he is, we don't need Failure-to-Thrive Fabian. The wee Scot has learned how to defend adequately, and his place should be that of deep-lying playmaker. That leaves Stephen Ireland to concentrate on just getting the damn ball to Bent, et al. Perhaps if he has just that one task, he can execute it better.
Matt: Well Albrighton for sure, since I'm not sure if he's actually still alive. (Anyone check Bannan's legal records again? Callback!) Seriously though, I'll go with Brad Guzan, because Given didn't have a great Euros or preseason, and I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world to give Guzan some more time. Or Alan Hutton. Lambert should be using him as a foot stool during matches so he can see better.
Robert: I'm surprised Aaron didn't say anything, but I feel like Eric Lichaj qualifies perfectly for this. He's shown a lot of skill in getting forward while being a pretty tenacious defender. He isn't polished enough as is to be starting consistently, but in a game like last week's (where wing play was nonexistent), I feel like he'd make a great "trying to come from behind and take a point or [gasp] all three" sub. He'd be a bit like a defending Barry Bannan in the feeling he'd bring to the match.