Why Paul Lambert was right to bench Bent

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October 1, 2012 by doctoreisenfaust

Villa boss Paul Lambert had hinted before his team’s game against West Brom on Sunday that star striker Darren Bent would not be among the starting line-up, as he stated in a pre-match interview ‘it doesn’t matter who is worth what’, hinting that Bent’s huge price tag does not guarantee him a starting place.

Bent came off the bench to great effect for Villa on Sunday, and many of today’s headlines will no doubt question Lambert’s decision to keep one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League out of the starting line-up, but I for one am in no doubt that Lambert made the right decision.

A team should be selected on form, and Darren Bent is no exception to this. No one player is bigger than the club.

Prior to the game on Sunday, Bent had shown little in the way of a form or consistency for Villa in the Premier League, barring a half-decent performance against Swansea and a bundled goal against Southampton.

Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor meanwhile both put in sterling performances in the midweek cup victory over Manchester City, and showed that they can form a lethal partnership upfront with their eclectic mix of brute force and blistering pace, with an end product to boot.

Benteke and Agbonlahor’s performances against Manchester City meant they deserved another chance starting alongside each other, and unfortunately for Bent it was he who had to make way.

Some people will believe that Lambert will have dropped Bent as an act of defiance, and to let everybody know who is boss. However Lambert would not have dropped Bent if he thought in any way it would hinder his team. Lambert was not trying to send a message to Bent, and he has already stated that Bent has nothing to prove to him or anyone else, it is simply that prior to the game against West Brom, Benteke and Agbonlahor were working well together and were in better form, so were picked ahead of him for the good of the team.

Bent fires the equaliser for Villa against West Brom

Of course whether Bent sees it this way is another matter entirely. Questions have been raised over Bent’s loyalty to his team, with his acrimonious departure from Sunderland and the fact he was seen out shopping with his girlfriend rather than supporting Villa whilst injured last Christmas, being the most high profile examples.

The tabloids will therefore have you believe that Bent came off the bench to score against West Brom to prove a point to Lambert, however for me that is not the case.

There is now an increased challenge for places at Villa, and Bent will be aware of the threat that Benteke, Agbonlahor, and indeed Weimann will pose to his position. He will know that his recent performances were not up to his high standards, and he would simply want to get back into the starting eleven as soon as possible, and the fastest way to do that is to start playing better.

Of course even if I’m wrong and Bent is now firing on all cylinders just to prove Lambert wrong for dropping him, this can only mean good things for Villa in the short term.

If this is the case, and Bent starts scoring a shipload of goals just to spite Lambert, as a Villa fan myself, I say knock yourself out Darren. Fill your boots mate.

(However in the long run, if Bent does have a chip on his shoulder about being dropped, I would expect a bid of around £15 million from Liverpool in January to be gladly accepted.)

Either way, the lasting benefit of this decision for Villa is that Lambert has now set a precedent that the starting eleven will be selected first and foremost on form, and this will have a positive ripple effect through the rest of the team. The players are now under no illusions that they are guaranteed a spot in the team and instead they are all now starkly aware that they must work hard and perform on the pitch to prove that they deserve a place on the team sheet.

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