Darren Bent has been on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism following his recent move from Sunderland to Aston Villa.
It’s been said he’s not worth the £24million transfer fee – absolutely, but the player doesn’t set the price, the clubs involved do. Bent has also been accused of moving to earn a higher salary – more than likely, but it’s hardly news that someone in the money obsessed Sky TV 3D/HD Super League (or English Premier League) makes a decision based on finances rather than football.
The player has also received stick for being disloyal and letting Sunderland down – fair comment, but it’s a bit rich when some of those comments are coming from Steve Bruce, a man who’s never been shy when it comes to leaving a club when there’s a better offer on the table. It should also be remembered that Sunderland could simply have rejected the bid from Villa.
All of the above are par for the course when a player moves from one club to another. However, perhaps more interesting are the views of some observers who describe Bent as “just a goalscorer”. It’s an indication of how much the game has changed when being able to put the ball in the back of the net is viewed almost as some kind of weakness.
It’s fair to say Bent doesn’t contribute much to his team outside the opposition penalty area, which is in contrast with many modern strikers. In the era of 4-2-3-1, a front man is expected to be much more than a finisher – making space, and retaining possession are essential, while creation of opportunities is every bit as important as conversion.
However, for all his deficiencies, the fact remains that Bent is still a very capable striker in one the best leagues in the world. He has to time his runs and make sure he is in the right place at the right time (hardly an in-depth tactical analysis but it’s what he does), which is not easy, and is down to intelligence and anticipation, rather than luck as some would suggest. He’s not a Drogba or a Torres, but he can provide goals, one of many things the current Aston Villa side requires. Bent has already made his mark, scoring twice in three games, and he will add to that tally before the end of the season.
While Gary Lineker and Ian Rush made careers out of being ‘poachers’, current equivalents such as Bent or Kris Boyd are not valued in the same way. However, as long as the aim of the game is to score more one more than the opposition, there will always be a place for the penalty-box predator.