UNSPECIFIED: In this undated handout image provided by M&S, (L-R) Theo Walcott, Emile Heskey, Matthew Upsom and Steven Gerrard of the England World Cup squad pose for a photograph to launch the Marks and Spencer England World Cup Suit. (Photo by M&S via Getty Images))
According to the club's official Twitter account, Aston Villa "striker" Emile Heskey will be out for up to a month with an achilles injury. The odds seem quite good that this is a recurrence of the very same achilles injury that kept Heskey sidelined for parts of December and January, and given the condition of the pitch at Memorial Stadium it would have been somewhat surprising if Villa didn't lose someone to injury.
As might be somewhat obvious, I have a different view of Heskey than is typical. I think a lot of the things he does well are under-appreciated, and in the right system he can be an incredibly effective player (or could at one point; he's never looked quite right this season.) The key, however, is using him correctly, and I don't think that's really something Alex McLeish (and Martin O'Neill before him) has really done. Heskey isn't a winger or wide midfielder, and he sure as sugar isn't a central midfielder. He's a big, strong center forward with solid ball skills and excellent vision that can win headers and provide excellent link-up play. That part of his game hasn't been on display at all this season, and more often than not he's been at best a waste of an outfield spot and at worst an out-and-out liability.
And so, while injuries are never good news and Villa have some pretty serious depth issues at forward (though the temporary addition of Robbie Keane will help quite a bit, assuming it comes off) this probably isn't the worst thing in the world. Even the best managers in the world have toys they use in a baffling manner, and Alex McLeish isn't any exception. Without the option to go to Heskey, McLeish will be forced to do other, smarter things that make Villa a better side. Of course, this also means the chances of Heskey moving on during the January window are likely out the door, but the odds of that happening were always pretty low. This only becomes a concern if Villa lose another striker to injury, and it's not like that's something that happens all the time.