In seasons gone by it almost seemed irrelevant as to where Darren Bent plied his trade, such was his consistency in finding the net. Given enough game time, the goals flew in with incredible regularity – Bent had notched double figures in eight of the nine campaigns prior to 2011/12 but the arrival of Alex McLeish to Villa Park put paid to his prospects as a Fantasy force last time out:
Bent has grabbed 41 goals in his previous couple of campaigns with Sunderland and Villa and, having looked set for another strong season, was slapped with a 10.0 price tag by Fantasy Premier League (FPL). In front of his own fans, Bent’s form caught the eye to begin with last term – his first six home games harvested five goals and an assist but on the road he was literally pointless; it took the Villa forward until December 31 to pick up his first attacking returns away from home, as the midlands outfit struggled badly on their travels.
That New Year’s Eve goal at Chelsea sparked a run of four strikes in five Gameweeks and suggested the new boss had finally worked out a way to utilise his star forward but Bent lasted just three more matches before disaster struck. With 78 minutes on the clock in the Gameweek 26 trip to Wigan, he sustained ruptured ankle ligaments and was to play no further part in his side’s campaign; Villa resultantly limped over the finishing line, scoring eight more goals in the remaining 12 matches to escape relegation by just two points. Bent, meanwhile, ended the FPL campaign with nine goals and 91 points to his name – 104 and 67 less than the hauls accrued over his previous two seasons respectively.
Now fully recovered and ready in time for pre-season training, Bent’s prospects have been afforded a timely boost with the installation of Paul Lambert to the Villa Park hotseat. McLeish’s negative style of play saw Villa end the 2011/12 campaign with just seven victories and a mere 37 goals – the second worst tally in the entire league – and there was no surprise when the former Birmingham boss bit the bullet.
Lambert is a different prospect. Guiding Norwich to 12th last term, his attacking style of play helped the Canaries rack up 52 goals; a tally only the top six managed to eclipse and one that Randy Lerner is hoping can continue in the upcoming campaign. For Fantasy managers, the new boss was a source of frustration last season as he chopped and changed his formation and personnel but bearing in mind his rebuilding of the Villa squad is in its infancy, there’s every chance Lambert will look for stability in order to steady the ship.
At present, Villa are bereft of up front options – with only Andreas Weimann and Nathan Delfouneso as first-team alternatives, Bent will arguably be the midlanders’ most crucial player in the season ahead, though investment looks inevitable before the end of August. Norwich’s dire defensive record under Lambert of 66 goals conceded suggests Villa’s attacking assets may well be the ones to watch and with spot-kick duties also in the bag, a return to the form of old is more than a possibility for Bent – given last term’s woes a drop in price is perhaps likely, down to 9.0 – 9.5.
A look at the opening schedule indicates he will be afforded every chance to hit the ground running. Bent welcomes Everton, Swansea and West Brom to Villa Park in the first six Gameweeks and, with trips to West Ham and Southampton also on the cards, only a visit to Newcastle seems a real stumbling block. The omens looks good, then, and free of injury and McLeish, Bent could once again prove a solid source of goals in the season ahead.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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“We have dynamic players with good movement, so if he can link with them fine. He can play a bit higher because his timing getting into the box is very good.”Rafa Benitez talks up the role that Frank Lampard can play in his Chelsea revolution