Captain Ron Vlaar is convinced Paul Lambert’s exciting attacking options will improve Aston Villa’s solidity at the back by keeping defenders on their toes in training.

Despite Darren Bent being out injured, Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor are in goalscoring form and striker Andi Weimann is enjoying more first-team action.

And Vlaar believes the forward options at Lambert’s disposal are raising the standards among the defenders on the Bodymoor Heath training pitches each day.

Villa kept their second Premier League clean sheet of the season in Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Sunderland after their previous shut-out against Swansea in August.

And the Dutch defender reckons facing the likes of Bent, Benteke and Agbonlahor is perfect preparation for taking on the top flight’s most dangerous attackers.

“Playing against Darren, Christian and Gabby does keep you on your toes, which is important because it helps you prepare for some of the different players in the Premier League,” said Vlaar. ‘‘They all bring something different which is very good. Every game someone else starts because the manager might look at a specific opponent and decide exactly what he needs. It’s good because you need options. I always train like I play and that is very important. It helps me stay sharp.

“It’s important the manager has different options and I think in that position we have a few different players there now who all have their own qualities.

“Also it keeps you sharp because you coming up against different types of players every day in training. We need goals to win games and competition is important.

“You also need to be strong defensively and know that someone else is there waiting to come in and take your place. It’s a good thing.’’