Marc Albrighton is back. Do you all remember Marc Albrighton? He's the diminutive little midfielder that we all love to see paired with Barry Bannan. You know, the one that asked for Hot Wheels for Christmas one year. It's been a while since he's been on our minds, as he's been out with an injury.
But he came back for the League Cup match against Manchester City on Tuesday (a match, I hesitate to add, that Aston Villa won by a score of 2-4), and now with Stephen Ireland injured, it seems that he may have to jump into the squad sooner rather than later. So this week, I thought it might be interesting to see how everyone thinks our wee winger ought best be used. And by everyone, I do mean you as well. Be sure to give us your responses in the comments, and you'll find ours below.
This Week's Question: How would you like to see Marc Albrighton used
once he returns to the club in full health? (Edit: the question was written on Monday before we knew he'd be back already).
Gareth: Part of the reason we got destroyed in the second half against Southampton is because our midfield was so incredibly narrow. By using Karim El Ahmadi, Barry Bannan, Brett Holman, Stephen Ireland and eventually Ashley Westwood, Paul Lambert was using a midfield consisting entirely of players most comfortable either in the centre or cutting inside. As a result, Eric Lichaj and Matt Lowton had no help dealing with Southampton's excellent wide players, because no one was interested in keeping them pinned back. The first goal was created from the right wing by Adam Lallana, who centred it for Rickie Lambert, and the second was scored by Southampton's left back Nathaniel Clyne, who was allowed into a ridiculous position for a full back. Marc Albrighton is the best true winger Aston Villa has, like it or not. If he can recapture the form from his debut against West Ham, where he ran up and down the touchline like a madman, he will give Villa an extra dimension that they are sorely lacking.
Aaron: Albrighton is clearly a talented player, but it's just as clear that his confidence is completely shot and he's just hoping his speed will be enough to get past defenders and into position to deliver a cross. Defenders aren't falling for that anymore, and Albrighton hasn't adjusted. In Marc's first full season, he had a few tricks up his sleeve; now, if he can't find space right away he's almost guaranteed to try to run past his man and it almost never works. If he can get that confidence back he can still be a good player but he's not going to get his confidence back until he has some success and the things he needs to do to be successful are things he doesn't seem confident enough to attempt. It's a vicious cycle.
At this point, I'm pretty well convinced that the only way for him to get back to his earlier form is for Paul Lambert to put him in positions where he's most likely to succeed as the somewhat limited player that he is right now; as an impact sub where he can run at worn down defenders, or as a starter against teams that like to push forward from the back and leave some space down the flanks. (So basically, he should play against Aston Villa.) There's some risk that were he to have success playing the way he does now it would cause him to double down on being the player he's been the last few years, but I don't think that's the case. And even if it were, putting him in a position where he's likely to fail isn't really going to help matters.
Matt: In a hug. With me.
Andrew: It seems clear that Paul Lambert believes he has a quality player in Marc Albrighton which is something Alex McLeish did not believe and so I am going to go ahead and side with Lambert since he seems to know what he's doing. When I think of Marc Albrighton I immediately think of the 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Villa Park from November 2010 when Marc Albrighton terrorized United for something like 75 minutes or so until things naturally returned to order and United levelled the match.
That's the Marc Albrighton that has to return from this injury spell. Not the one we saw off and on under various incompetents who looked lost or just wasn't noticeable at all. We know his strengths and weaknesses and we root for guys like Marc Albrighton to succeed. It seems that Lambert is going to give him a shot. Hopefully Albrighton makes the most of it and can develop into the player we all thought we had in November 2010.
Robert: When I wrote about Stephen Ireland's injury, I mentioned that I thought Bazza could slot back into the middle. But I've been thinking about this a bit more. Marc was at his best when he could blaze up the wings, and Bannan has been at his best as a part of the wing. So why not keep it that way? Stephen Ireland is out for a bit, but Brett Holman could move into his slot and be the dynamo he has been there. He's tenacious, aggressive, and could really break up play in the center of the pitch. Put Karim El Ahmadi with him and then you can have Bannan on the left with Albrighton on the right. A really solid, stout midfield and two energetic wingers. Who knows, maybe our forwards could see some consistent service then?