Richard Dunne (puns!) hurt himself. /jokes
Aston Villa fans had a decent start to the day with the Ron Vlaar and James Collins moves being announced officially, but things have taken a turn for the worse; the knee injury that Gabby Agbonlahor picked up in the pre-season friendly against the Chicago Fire will keep him out of action for 4-5 weeks, while Richard Dunne will be on the sidelines for 6-8 weeks following groin surgery. That means an early test of Villa's depth at striker and center back, two positions widely believed to be in need of strengthening even before the injury news.
While Vlaar and Ciaran Clark were the presumptive first-choice center back pairing, the loss of Dunne is still a major blow. With Nathan Baker the only other central defender in the squad with first team experience, an injury to Clark or Vlaar -heaven forbid- could lead to Derrick Williams making his way into the team. That's not necessarily a disaster, but it's certainly far from ideal. There's also no question that Dunne might be a preferable choice to Vlaar or Clark against certain opponents, and any desire to rotate the central defensive pairing will now have to wait until Dunne's return.
The loss of Agbonlahor could be an even bigger problem; Gabby looked to be penciled in as Bent's strike partner, but it now looks as though Andreas Weimann will be starting 2012-13 in the first XI. Weimann had a breakout season in 2011-12 and it doesn't bother me all that much to see him getting significant minutes, but the fact that Nathan Delfouneso is the only forward behind him is something of a terrifying proposition. Not because I've given up on Fonz; he looked quite good in pre-season, and I'm optimistic that he'll take a big step forward this season. But given the need to rotate and substitute forwards (especially given the up-tempo style favored by Paul Lambert,) one striker on the bench just isn't going to cut it. There are other options, of course; Bent could play alone up top with one of Ireland or Holman just behind, or Graham Burke could get a chance to show that he's ready to contribute to the first team. But I can't be alone in thinking Villa really need to consider adding some depth at striker if at all possible.
Injuries are a part of the game and teams need to be prepared to deal with them, but these past few years have at times felt less like football than a war of attrition. Hopefully this is just a sign that Villa are getting things out of the way early this season rather than a sign of things to come. It's been all wine and roses under Lambert so far, and there's plenty of reason for optimism. But despite the new approach and positive outlook, this squad is still thin enough to be a rash of injuries away from another severely disappointing campaign.