The 2015-16 season marks Agbonlahor’s 11th in the top flight of English football, and with 73 goals, he’s Aston Villa’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer. 45 of those goals came in the four seasons under Martin O’Neill, in which the player formed a pretty deadly strike partnership with John Carew.
However, in recent years, times have changed, and it’s been a poor start to the season for the forward. He’s played every minute of Aston Villa’s Premier League campaign thus far, and has failed to make an impact.
The most recent game vs Crystal Palace saw him one-on-one with Alex McCarthy, but instead of powering the ball home with his left foot, and in turn granting Villa a 1-0 lead, he opted to shoot with the outside of his right, straight at the keeper. This not only highlighted a lack of confidence, but honestly, a lack of footballing intelligence. In another attacking move, Agbonlahor latched onto a beautiful pass from Jack Grealish, but later completely miscontrolled the ball, kicking thin air instead.
The most disheartening and annoying thing is that this isn’t just a one-time occurrence. This sort of poor play has been pretty constant in his game for quite some time now, and his average of just over five goals per Premier League season since 2010-11 showcases this.
There is one improvement in Agbonlahor’s game though, and that’s his movement. He has always had the ability to frighten defenders when running with the ball, due to his immense pace, but in recent years, especially under Lambert, his movement off the ball had been extremely poor. For someone who supposedly loves Aston Villa, after spending upwards of 20 years at the club, this laziness was pretty baffling to see. However, since the appointment of Sherwood as manager back in February, his off-the-ball play has seen a definite improved, and he stretches defences with ease.
This isn’t enough to warrant a place in the starting XI though. His primary job should be to score or create goals, and he does neither. I just don’t see a place for him in the side. There are better options in the striker department, and after recent signings, Villa are blessed with an abundance of quality wingers and other attacking players, who easily outshine him.
Recently I started to consider whether or not Agbonlahor could be used as an impact-sub. As I mentioned before, his pace is frightening, and against tiring defenders, he could be lethal. But then I think about his lack of composure and finishing ability. Do we really want someone coming off the bench late on, when we’re in need of a goal, who is seemingly unable to score? However, after being made club captain by Sherwood, it seems that he is firmly in the manager’s plans, and could potentially start most games.
All this being said, if there is one thing the player can be counted on for, it’s his ability to performa in derby matches. None come bigger than Villa vs Blues, and after the Birmingham-based sides were drawn against each other for the third round of the League Cup, maybe it will be Agbonlahor’s time to silence the critics. Trust me, I’d love nothing more.