Jores Okore may not have been able to help Aston Villa secure a first Premier League clean sheet in 2013, but he has managed to look the club’s best centre-back since his summer arrival from Nordsjaelland.
Therefore, confirmation that he will be out for nine months with a cruciate ligament injury is catastrophic news for Paul Lambert.
Villa have had a really unfortunate start to the season in terms of the fitness of their central defenders. Nathan Baker hasn’t played since lasting 17 minutes in the Premier League opener with Arsenal, while Ciaran Clark didn’t see out the first half with Chelsea
And Okore’s injury may prove the one that ultimately ends Villa’s hopes that they finish in the top half of the Premier League.
The 4/9 on offer that the Villans finish in the bottom half now certainly looks more appetising than the 13/8 that they end the season among the top 10.
Villa have not shut out the opposition in 26 top-flight games and the hope will now be that the experienced gained by the likes of Baker and Clark last season will make them better defenders this term.
Meanwhile, some midfield changes may help boost Villa’s defensive solidarity.
Yacouba Sylla has only played in the Capital One Cup win over Rotherham in this campaign, whereas Villa only lost in two of the 11 fixtures in which he played last season, accruing 21 points in the process.
His more physical stature could help as Villa looked especially lightweight in midfield against Newcastle.
The other problem for Villa is finding a tactic that can reap rewards against teams that get players behind the ball.
Part of the reason they looked good against Arsenal and Chelsea earlier in the season is that the opposition played an attacking brand of football, which left them susceptible to the counter attack.
Not all teams will do this and Lambert’s failure to bring in an attacking midfielder with an eye for a killer pass may result in Villa being short of ideas to break down teams.
Villa are 19/10 to win at Norwich next and being the away team may suit them in this fixture.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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