That Darren Bent Situation
It seems like a lot of people are (excuse the pun) bent out of shape about the news of Darren Bent`s exclusion from first team affairs. The report of the £24m striker`s exile to training with the youth team in the Birmingham Mail has prompted a public outcry that he`s being treated terribly and doesn`t deserve to be snubbed that way.
The sad fact is, if he was truly worth the £24m we paid for him a few years ago, he wouldn`t be allowed to leave and we`d be fighting tooth and nail to tie him down for longer.
"How can you say that?!" I hear you proclaim. Well, I`ll tell you. If Darren Bent was the total package, he would have kept the captain`s armband for longer. If he was the ultimate striker, he`d have started every game. If he was utterly indispensible to Aston Villa, the manager would find it nigh-on impossible to implement a playing style without him. But he`s not. The fact that Christian Benteke was bought for £7m and scored 19 goals in his first year suggests that Bent`s style is too basic for Paul Lambert`s revolution and that this one-trick pony must be put out to pasture.
Ask yourself this.....if Darren Bent is as amazing as some believe him to be, why has he never played for Arsenal, Chelsea or United? Why aren`t Man City opening the purse for what would be the snip of the season to buy him? Why haven`t we been made an offer we can`t refuse, and why did he never make that big step up? I believe it`s because the game has changed. Clubs need a striker who can create goals from their own ability as well as team efforts in contrast to relying heavily on balls into the box like Bent does. Benteke showed us last season that he is more than capable of destroying defences on his own as well as scoring in the area and even creating chances for others. Unfortunately for Bent, the days of walking into the opposition penalty area and having the ball laid off for him have come to an end. I could be wrong, he could move on and top the scoring charts next season because his new team know how to get the best from him, but sadly I think it`s unlikely.
People have also posed the question of what would happen if we were to lose Benteke and we hadn`t yet sold Bent; I believe he`d still be sold. Paul Lambert is developing a philosophy at the club that focuses on the team, the ability of the team, the relationships within the team and the overall success of the team. To basically dismantle that ideology and say "right boys, get it into the box and pass to Darren" is tantamount to releasing a sky lantern near a plastic factory. Also, if Lambert did decide to build the team around Bent and he got injured (again), what then? We would certainly have developed a reputation as a one-mean team if Mr. Houllier had still been in charge. Yes, when he was bought he did his job of keeping us in the Premier League with his goals, but this is a new era and there is no room for sentiment when a man is not willing or able to adapt his game for the good of his employers to the tune of around £70,000 a week.
Why has he been told to train with the youngsters? This is open to speculation. Some might believe he`s fallen out with Lambert, some might say it`s because he`s being sold, eternal optimists might postulate that he will be passing his goalscoring experience onto the kids. My own opinion is that his ego has gotten in the way of his ability to function as part of a unit rather than being the big fish in a small pond which he thrived on at Charlton and Sunderland, and sending him to the kids seems more like a statement of his availability to other clubs rather than some form of cruel punishment, although I could be totally wrong. After all, as mentioned above, this is a man who cost us £24m, is earning a considerable amount of money but is unable to offer anything more than a well-placed shot from inside the area. Let`s not forget that he was handed the captain`s armband at the start of Lambert`s tenure, a sure gesture from the manager to say that he has faith in him and would like to see what he can do. It hasn`t been enough, and at 29 years old Bent may now struggle to find a move to another Premier League club of similar stature to Aston Villa.
Don`t get me wrong, I bear no personal grudge to Darren Bent. When we first signed him I believed it was a statement of intent, a sign that after years of struggling for goals that we finally had a man who would propel us up the table. He did that, regrettably from the wrong end, and all seemed well. However, Lambert is clearly keen to have players on board who believe in Aston Villa and are willing to work hard for the team rather than the team working hard for one man. If Bent met that criterion he would not be being sold, surely. In addition, consider that in 3 seasons Bent has scored 21 league goals and Benteke has scored 19 in one season. Consider that in 3 seasons Gabby has only scored 4 league goals less than Bent. Consider that Benteke, Gabby and Andi Weimann do a whole lot more for the team other than put the ball in the back of the net and it becomes clear that Darren Bent is inevitably surplus to requirements.
You need only look at the simple facts: Ashley Young, Gareth Barry and James Milner were key players for us, important members of the first team and they moved on to bigger clubs and found success. Bent will leave as a man who will be remembered for keeping us in the Premier League but just didn`t fit in with the new regime. That`s all. I wish him the best.