With Villa's other strikers struggling for goals, the time as come for the fit-again Czech to be given a first-team chance.
After failing to land either Emmanuel Adebayor or Dimitar Berbatov on deadline day, it’s fairly obvious that Aston Villa have been left without enough firepower up front.
Gabby Agbonlahor, Jordan Ayew and fellow new boy Rudy Gestede have all be struggling for form in recent weeks and, while Scott Sinclair has stepped up of late with five goals in the past three games, his disappearing act in Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Leicester City proved why the team cannot rely on him to carry the goalscoring burden.
Playmaking duo Jack Grealish and Carles Gil did manage to showcase their finish skills on the weekend but, as key as they both are to the club’s on-field fortunes this season, the pair obviously aren’t going to produce a couple of world-class strikes every game.
The likes of Ayew and Gestede should come good eventually but, with Tim Sherwood’s men taking just four points from their first five Premier League, there clearly needs to be some immediate change if they want to avoid getting cut adrift at the bottom of the table for a fifth consecutive campaign.
Step forward Libor Kozak, who, after a bright pre-season, has been forced to settle for just one 48-minute substitute appearance so far this term in last month’s 5-3 Capital One Cup win over Notts County.
After 19 months without first-team football following a career-threatening leg-break, the Czech striker’s return to the senior setup in the summer saw him make an immediate impression, as he scored three times in five friendlies to stake a claim for the departed Christian Benteke’s old spot in the side.
Instead, though, the fit-again front man has made the bench for just two of Villa’s opening five top-flight games and, before the transfer deadline, there were even reports that he was set for a move to Scottish champions Celtic [h/t The Times].
Sherwood dismissed those rumours at the time, while insisting that the coaching staff were working closely with him to try to get some confidence into his play, but the 26-year-old certainly didn’t seem to have any issues in Monday’s night Under-21s game against Brighton & Hove Albion.
With the Villa boss watching on at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium, the 6ft 3in forward produce an active 90-minute run-out before netting a stoppage-time penalty to hand Gordon Cowans’ men a dramatic 2-1 win.
Whether it will be enough to earn him a spot in the matchday squad for Saturday’s visit of Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion remains to be seen but, having already shown some flashes of Premier League ability in the past, it’s not as if Sherwood would be throwing him in a the deep end.
|2013-14 Premier League||Position||Team||Goals||Goals MINS||Total Shots||Shooting Accuracy||Assists||Total Key Passes||Headers Won||Header Success||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Libor Kozák||FW||Aston Villa||4||195.25||11||64%||0||8||44||34%||14||781|
Signed from Lazio in September 2013 for €6.5 million [£4.7 million], the former Serie A ace looked to be coming into his own after scoring four times in his first 14 games for the club, before a training ground collision with Ciaran Clark began a nightmare injury lay-off.
Since battling back from two operations, it’s somewhat understandable that Sherwood has handled him with care since arriving at the club but, having now proven his fitness, the eight-time capped Czech has to be an option for him to consider amid the team’s striker problems.
Much more than just a big target up top, he showed his manager in pre-season that he can run the channels, as well as offer some creativity by setting up Callum Robinson’s strike in the 1-1 draw at Walsall, and that package of skills certainly wouldn’t go amiss in the first-team at this point.
It’s probably unrealistic to expect him to play a big role in the weekend’s Baggies clash but, with a Capital One Cup third-round tie against fellow Midlands rivals Birmingham City coming up just three days later, that could be the perfect opportunity for him to show his worth.
Certainly, a goal to beat the Blues at a packed Villa Park under the lights would make for quite a storyline after all he has been through over the past season-and-a-half.