Martin O'Neill believes Aston Villa have overcome the loss of former captain Gareth Barry.
The England midfielder finally left Villa Park this summer in a £12million switch to Manchester City after almost joining Liverpool last year.
The 28-year-old joined Villa back in 1997 and went on to make more than 400 appearances for the club while breaking into the international set-up.
O'Neill's men seemed to be suffering from the absence of Barry as they opened the season with a home defeat by Wigan.
But Villa then went on a six-match winning streak and lie seventh, two places behind City, as Barry prepares for his first return to Villa Park on Monday.
So although O'Neill admits he would still like to have Barry at his disposal, he feels Villa have regrouped after losing their talisman.
"If you asked me, 'would we still rather have Gareth around here?' then the answer would be, 'definitely, absolutely'," said the Villa boss.
Shift"But Gareth has moved on to Manchester City this summer and I think we have made a shift ourselves.
"As our team starts to take shape in the next couple of months, we are hoping his loss will not be as severe as we were certainly expecting early on."
O'Neill understands Barry's decision to find a fresh challenge after 12 years at Villa Park.
Barry has immediately established himself in the heart of the City midfield but the Villa boss recognises that the big-spending Eastlands outfit have plenty of other stars to be wary of.
"I'm sure Gareth is pretty pleased with his decision - and that's obviously something I can empathise with in many aspects," O'Neill added.
"I was with Nottingham Forest for 10 years myself as a player. But it's not just about Gareth.
"City have plenty of weapons. For example, Craig Bellamy was fantastic for us when I was manager of Celtic and he is playing with a lot of confidence.
"Then they've got the likes of Carlos Tevez, Martin Petrov and Emmanuel Adebayor."