With the fewest goals scored in the Premier League so far this season, fans and pundits alike expect to see Aston Villa pursue a striker in the January window. But if the club hopes to be a more potent attacking force the rest of the way, it's not just the forwards that have to pull their weight.
Aston Villa's inability to score goals isn't much of a secret. Through 21 games the team has managed to score just 17 times, on pace to score 31 goals on the season-six fewer than last season's woeful mark. That's a pretty horrendous number, and with the January transfer window open and Paul Lambert expected to have at least a bit of money to spend, the conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that he's going to have striker near the top of the list of positions in need of reinforcement. That may very well be the case (though I have not been made privy to the manager's plans, much to my chagrin) but unless Aston Villa have lined up the next Zlatan, it's not going to be enough to fix things on its own.
It's a bit odd that in a season where the emerging partnership between Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke has been one of the sole positive stories, Villa would find goals so incredibly hard to come by. Neither young striker is going to challenge for the league scoring title (yet) but both have put up perfectly respectable numbers; 6 goals in 16 league games for Benteke and 4 in 11 games for Weimann. That pace would be acceptable over the course of a full season, but given the way the two have performed since finding themselves paired up top together regularly it would be little surprise to see those numbers improve going forward. Are there players that Villa could plausibly attract that would serve as an upgrade? Certainly. But any time 62.5% of a team's scoring is coming from two players, it points to bigger problems.
So what about the other 7 goals? Two of them were scored by Darren Bent, while another was provided by Gabby Agbonlahor. That's 13 goals from strikers, which leaves just 4 for the rest of the team. Let that sink in for just a second. Four goals from wingers, midfielders and defenders. In 21 games. To call that a problem is a pretty tremendous understatement. And when you consider as well that the service provided to the strikers has left much to be desired, it's pretty clear that the lion's share of the problem lies elsewhere.
To a certain extent, it's reasonable to believe that this level of futility is unsustainable on its own. Three goals from set-pieces is almost unfathomably poor, and Villa's big defenders have caused some serious trouble at times despite only Ciaran Clark having managed to convert. The League Cup has shown us that it is in fact possible for Aston Villa players that are not strikers to score goals. But aside from Brett Holman, who has somehow converted just 1/24 shots in league play despite seeming to come close at least once per game, it's difficult to see any of Villa's current regulars making much of a direct impact on the score-sheet. If the Charles N'Zogbia Alex McLeish thought he was buying or Marc Albrighton's confidence find their way to Villa Park it might be a different story, but one would likely be wise not to hold their breath on either count.
Not all midfielders are goal scoring threats and not all midfielders are creators, but Aston Villa needs to find a little more of both from somewhere. Because no matter how good you think Benteke and Weimann are capable of being, it's unrealistic to expect them to score 25 goals apiece with little in the way of service. There are plenty of good, solid link-up players in this team but no one that's really capable of unlocking a defense, while the lack of quality in wide play has been appalling for going on two seasons now. Strikers are an important part of the goal scoring process, but they can't do it alone.
None of this is to say that signing a striker is necessarily a bad idea. Aston Villa's single biggest problem right now is a lack of talent, and becoming more talented is always a good thing. But to look at the goals scored column in the table and conclude that splashing a lot of money on a new forward (or playing Darren Bent, if you feel like turning the clock back a month or two) is going to fix everything is to demonstrate a failure to understand the real problems with this team at the moment. This team's strike force is the least of this team's problems. Should Darren Bent be sold in this window that could very well change the equation, but at the moment the limited resources Paul Lambert has at his disposal should be focused on trying to fix the things that are actually broken.