Paul Lambert is not actively looking to sell Darren Bent in the January transfer window - but has warned the England striker he will have to show more desire and commitment if he wants to win back his place at Aston Villa.
The Villa manager is again likely to leave Bent out of his starting line-up against Arsenal this weekend, even though he is expected to recover from an ankle injury which has kept him out of defeats against Manchester United and Manchester City.
Bent, the club's leading scorer for the last two seasons, has lost his place to £7 million summer signing Christian Benteke. Villa have also been linked with NK Maribor striker Robert Beric and St Etienne's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ahead of the January transfer window.
Lambert has been assured by owner Randy Lerner there will be funds available when the window opens, but until then he wants Bent to prove he has the desire to be part of the relegation fight at Villa by showing it on the training ground.
Asked directly whether Bent had to prove his point at Bodymoor Heath, Lambert responded: "Everyone has to show their worth. I have no favourites. I judge them as equals. I'm trying to get the best out of them and I've got to do what it takes to get the best out of them."
Bent insists he will not actively seek a move in January and Lambert claims relations with the England international are amicable, but he does not want the Bent issues to overshadow the rest of the team.
"There isn't an issue," Lambert said. "At least not at my end there isn't. I have 20-odd lads to look after. Goalscorers are the same, they thrive on scoring. The team is playing well and talking about Darren is deflecting from other guys who have come in and done really well."
Lambert has rejected a request from Hull City to take Shay Given on loan. The Republic of Ireland international may well be allowed to leave permanently in the January transfer window as Villa look to off-load some of their highest earners.
Hull manager Steve Bruce wants to strike a deal for the 36-year-old, but is unable to cover Given's entire £3 million-a-year salary and Lambert is unwilling to allow his second choice 'keeper out on a temporary basis at the moment.