Regular readers of my articles on avillafan.com will be aware of my big bug-bear at Villa – Gabriel Agbonlahor. I have received a fair bit of stick for articles on Agbonlahor in the past two years, including this piece in February. In the article entitled ‘Gabby Must Go’, I was very critical of Agbonlahor’s performances and commitment.
Now, at the start of a new season, it seems to be a similar situation. I find myself banging the same drum as before: I believe Agbonlahor’s time at Villa should be coming to an end.
Tim Sherwood has overseen wholesale changes to the squad this summer. Only four of the players who faced Crystal Palace on Saturday – Bacuna, Westwood, Grealish and Agbonlahor – played in Villa’s last game of the 2014-15 season. Changes were needed at B6. One player I was prepared to eat humble pie over was Agbonlahor, who became a scapegoat of my anger for large parts of last season.
Last season Agbonlahor was, in my opinion, a hindrance in the starting XI. In hindsight, I recognise that having him on the pitch may have been important in a relegation dogfight because not many players understand the club like Gabby Agbonlahor must do. I still wonder why he is such a long serving player. Is it because nobody has tested his loyalty or is it because he isn’t good enough to move forward?
Agbonlahor is often static. The twenty-eight-year-old missed two golden chances on Saturday at Selhurst Park and the first of them was arguably one of his worst misses in a Villa shirt. Ashley Westwood played a ball through to Gabby, who galloped away, using his biggest asset – his pace – only to half-heartedly poke the ball to the advancing, Alex McCarthy, who would certainly not have saved it if Agbonlahor had put any sort of power behind his shot. It was a moment that summed up the fans´ frustration with Villa’s longest serving player.
Some fans suggest that Agbonlahor needs to be deployed more centrally but it is hard to make a case for then when you see the chances he has missed in the opening three games of the season.
Agbonlahor has lacked a cutting edge for some time. The crosses he produces are as fruitless as the ones that frustrated us last season. His finishing has not come on since the early Martin O’Neill days and his desire to work is non-existent. At the age of twenty-eight, I would expect him to be at his peak but, in reality, he hit his peak six seasons ago.
The former England international was made ‘club captain’ at the start of the season, which means he is essentially a club ambassador. I am known for my criticism of Agbonlahor’s performances on the pitch but I find it sad to say it is time for him to end his time at Villa Park, although I expect he will become a bit-part player.
Sherwood seems to have an abundance of wingers in the squad but he has still opted to start with Agbonlahor for the first three games of the new season. It is understandable that he would count on the Villa veteran given the influx of new players, who will need time to settle, but Agbonlahor hasn’t stepped up to the mark in a claret and blue shirt.
Something has to give soon. Carles Gil, Adama Traore, Jack Grealish and Scott Sinclair are all far more deserving of a place in the team than Gabby Agbonlahor and they should be given the chance to fight for Agbonlahor´s place in the starting line-up.