Why Christian Benteke's departure can elevate, not relegate, Aston Villa
Opinion: Why Christian Benteke's departure can elevate, not relegate, Aston Villa

The last two weeks at Aston Villa have put something of a dampener on things, regarding the club's progression under Tim Sherwood.

First came disappointing pre-season results against Fulham and Sporting Braga, before the unexpected u-turn by club captain Fabian Delph, as he completed a transfer to Manchester City.

The final blow was the departure of Christian Benteke to Liverpool, as everybody's favourite Belgian made the trip to Merseyside, raking in Villa a hefty £32.5million by doing so.

Listen to certain media sources, and you'll have heard that there's not much point in Villa turning up for the new Premier League season.

Their core has been ripped out by the departures of Ron Vlaar, Delph and Benteke, and they simply won't recover from this.

However, some people are of a different opinion, a positive one, and believe that there could well be light at the end of the tunnel for the Villans.

Who needs the striker to be your best player?

Casting your mind back to the 2007/08 season brings fond memories for Villa fans. A sixth placed finish in the league was blended with some excellent football from Martin O'Neill's side, and they backed it up with two more consecutive sixth placed season's.

The summer before, Villa lost Lee Hendrie, Steven Davies and Liam Ridgewell in the transfer window. Admittedly, none of those player's possessed the qualities of a Benteke or a Delph, but all were key player's for the side and had a close affinity to the club.

My main first point involves that team of 07/08, and how they were spearheaded by a certain John Carew. Although he managed a respectable 13 goals in the campaign, Carew wasn't their best player, and that proves wrong a theory.

There have been suggestions that Villa can't replace Benteke with a striker of the same quality, which may well be true. But Benteke was their best player, so they must now find one in another position.

Ashley Young was undoubtedly Villa's key man in the sixth placed season, and was duly rewarded with a move to Manchester United, where he remains today.

Villa might not need to find their own Benteke once more, but instead look for another Young, or another Gareth Barry, James Milner, etc. They don't have to concentrate their focuses on a striker of Benteke's quality, when a Carew like figure may well come cheaper and help them improve.

Carew celebrates a goal for Villa (photo: getty)
Carew celebrates a goal for Villa (photo: getty)

More money to be thrown around

"Villa's team just isn't good enough to survive a relegation battle without Benteke", was the cry on Twitter earlier this week.

What many people seem to be forgetting, is that owner Randy Lerner has £40million burning a hole in his pocket after the sales of Delph and Beneteke. The chances that Sherwood won't make any more additions before the big kick-off against Bournemouth on August 8, are slim.

Charlie Austin has been the main name banded around to replace Benteke, and he may fit the bill perfectly.

18 Premier League goals last season were scored in a relegated Queens Park Rangers team, with minimal support from the midfield. That's also a total which betters Benteke's for the season.

Austin is arguably both more versatile and consistent than Benteke, and is keen to move to keep playing in the Premier League. He'd cost around the £15million mark, leaving Villa with at least another £20million to spend.

That would surely have to be spent on a Delph replacement and a new centre back, to go in for Vlaar. However, there are some rumours that new signing Idrissa Gueye is the replacement for Delph, and Villa officials knew he was leaving all along.

If this is the case, then we could well see a midfield three of Sanchez-Gueye-Westwood at Villa Park this season, although many believe that won't be the case.

Gueye is a logical replacement for Tom Cleverley, meaning that there could well be one more central midfielder rolling into the Midlands this summer.

Dennis Praet is a name touted, and he really could be a player to help Villa onto the next level. He's more of an attacking midfielder by nature, but could excel in a '2-1' triangle ahead of Gueye and Westwood/Sanchez.

Further back, there haven't been any firm links with defenders, which could mean that Sherwood could be happy with his backline. It remains to be seen whether or not new signing Micah Richards will be used primarily as a centre back or right back, and this could offer more of an explanation come August 8.

Either way, there's money for more defender's, and Sherwood could well be wise to spend it.

Villa fans must not lose sight of their productive summer

As mentioned earlier, it's been a dreary two weeks for Villa fans, but the summer so far has been much of the opposite.

Sherwood has brought in what player's have described as a 'happier' regime than under Paul Lambert, whilst adding the highly regarded Ray Wilkins to his coaching staff.

Sensible signings of Scott Sinclair, Mark Bunn and Richards have been made, whilst Gueye and Jordan Amavi could prove to be Premier League starlets in the coming season.

The form shown towards the end of last season was aided by Benteke, but not him alone, and it was that form that propelled Villa out of the relegation zone and towards the FA Cup final.

These are all reasons as to why things haven't been so bleak recently as many suggest, and there is still over a month of the transfer window left to make it even better.

Benteke never helped Villa to the next level

In the three season's before Benteke's arrival, Villa came 6th, 9th and 16th. In the three season's following, 15th, 15th and 17th. Hardly screams progress.

What many forget, is that Villa have regressed, rather than progressed since Benteke moved from Genk. Obviously this isn't the Belgians fault, his performances have kept them from falling further, but it's foolish to suggest that Villa will suddenly come crashing down.

It's a feint possiblity that Villa could get relegated, but unlikely considering the talent they've bought in, so really the only way is up this season.

Rounding off

It remains yet to be seen how Benteke will do in a Liverpool shirt, or how Villa will fare without him running around in Claret and Blue, but all is not lost.

If anything, Villa fans can look at the sale as a huge positive, as they imagine the potential gained from it.

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