Steven Gerrard cited a recent injury for the absence of Emiliano Buendia from Aston Villa’s starting line-up so far this season and declared himself the playmaker’s biggest fan.
Buendia has largely had to play second fiddle to Philippe Coutinho under Gerrard, starting only four of the final 14 games last season.
The Argentinian again came off the bench on Saturday against Everton, taking the place of Coutinho, and had a hugely positive impact on Villa, seeing a shot cleared off the line before creating and scoring the second goal in a 2-1 victory.
Coutinho required treatment for a physical issue but Gerrard expects him to be fit for next weekend’s clash with Crystal Palace, so he is likely to again have to choose between the two players.
The Villa boss said: “We’ve got good players. We’ve got really good options in the final third and Emi Buendia will start football matches for this team and he’ll start them for me.
“He was winning the race for the starting slot and he got a muscle injury in a behind-closed-doors match against Fulham and missed close to a week. Then his training performance was slightly off from where he was prior to the injury so we’ve been patient with him.
“We haven’t felt the need to risk him and start him from the beginning. I think I’ve done the right thing with Emi, which is protect his health first and foremost. We put him on when the team needed energy and quality and he delivered and no one’s a bigger fan of Emi Buendia than me.”
The three points got Villa on the board for the season but Everton are still looking for their first positive result after an opening loss to Chelsea.
Villa were full value for their two-goal advantage but Everton belatedly found a goal threat and, after new signing Amadou Onana tempted Lucas Digne to put the ball into his own net, they created several chances to grab an equaliser.
There is no disguising the fact that the Toffees are light on quality options up front, though, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin still several weeks away from a return, and they will continue to seek reinforcements.
Lampard knew the final flourish did not mask their shortcomings, saying: “I think it’s important not to overanalyse the 10 minutes when you’re chasing a game, it’s not the norm.
“But that’s where we’re at when you’re bringing players into the club and you’ve issues with injury and maybe issues with the fitness of certain players, you have to try different things.
“We’re not quite settled at the minute and those things do give me some pause for thought but I think also the stability of our defensive play last week and this week, generally without the transition moments we’ve been really good, so we have to get the balance right of the team.”
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