Upon arriving at Villa Park this summer following his departure from Blackburn Rovers, Rudy Gestede was consistently bigged up to the media by then manager Tim Sherwood as a player who had the capacity to step up and make a real impact in the Premier League for an Aston Villa outfit that had recently lost its talisman and top goal-scorer, Christian Benteke.
However, the former Rovers front man has yet to start under new Villa boss Rémi Garde. Despite this, the Benin international remains as his club’s top scorer in the Premier League this season with 3 and has notched 4 in all competitions – of which 3 have been headers, of course.
One issue that has arisen for Gestede is that when he arrived, he was lacking in match fitness and subsequently saw a lot more time on the bench that was previously expected. This has led to him becoming something of an impact player who comes on to attack defenders later in the game who are perhaps half a yard slower and definitely do not fancy grappling with a 6ft 4” forward as time runs out. This means that it becomes a conundrum as to whether Gestede should be starting for Villa or not. As it stands, he has made more substitute appearances than starts in the Premier League this season which will be frustrating the player as he has fired in 3 of his 4 goals in games in which he has started. However, this hasn’t stopped the former Blackburn man from scoring the winning goal in 2 of Villa’s 3 wins this season.
It has been shown by Gestede’s time with Blackburn that when he is given the opportunity to have a sustained run in the team that he can a real asset to his side. His time at Cardiff was largely spent making appearances from the bench and it as only when he was given a run in the Blackburn squad that he showed what he can really do when it comes to scoring goals and displaying aerial prowess. It is the opinion of many that if Gestede is given a prolonged run of games in the first team at Villa then we could see the spark that saw him only outscored by Troy Deeney in the second tier of English football since his move to Blackburn became permanent on New Year’s Day 2014.
Another element that is worth consideration is that the one thing that Aston Villa don’t lack is pace. They have the ability to get into the channels and cause issues for any team, which is part of the reason why Gestede could be such a valuable asset for Villa as he could prove to be the perfect foil for the pacey wingers. This is not only because of his ability to hold the ball up and win aerial duels which can bring them into play, but also because Gestede lives for crosses into dangerous areas in the box. It only takes a quick look at the stats to see how much of an impact the Benin international could have when employed in this capacity – Gestede registered 7 assists in 66 appearances for Blackburn and has scored more headers than anyone else over the past two years with an impressive 22.
Whatever the ultimate decision by the new management team is at Villa Park, it is clear that changes need to happen and they need to happen fast as Villa have only registered a single win in their first 13 Premier League outings. When you are in a relegation battle, especially one that is taking place in the Premier League, you need to make changes quickly if a system isn’t working. One element of this is playing to the strengths of your squad and Villa have a rare talent in Rudy Gestede. The Benin international could definitely prove to be a catalyst in any success that Aston Villa have this season as he brings something that is definitely at a premium which is a genuine hunger and tenacity in the air and the ability to bring players into the game regardless of which centre backs are put in front of him. While Villa do have a few striking options within their ranks, many of whom have pace in abundance and are also very skillful players – Gestede offers something very different to that as well as a rare aerial ability that is often taken for granted. With the likes of Sinclair, Grealish, and Agbonlahor playing off Gestede – this a system that could prove to be fruitful for Aston Villa in their bid to remain in the top flight of English football.
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