Last Saturday when Aston Villa beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford, it was the first time the Midlands club had managed the feat in 26 years but amidst that another little known fact went largely unrecognised.
Gabby Agbonlahor has now scored against United in each of the past 4 seasons but it is not just United that have fallen victim to him. He regularly scores against the big four so why isn’t he held in as wide acclaim as he should be?
Back in March as Villa lost at home to Spurs, when the board was raised to indicate that Agbonlahor would be removed from the field of play, the Holte End of Villa Park broke out in rapturous applause. Agbonlahor had scored just 1 goal in 15 appearances and his performance that day did little to show that he would break that duck but this season he already has 9 goals to his name and he is looking a cert to beat his season best of 13 as he is grabbing goals with both his feet and his head.
This puts him just 1 behind Darren Bent yet when people discuss who will be going to the World Cup his name isn’t one that springs to mind. He had been criticised for his lack of awareness and technical ability and seen as one dimensional, unable to interchange positions or make runs to take the defender away so that his colleagues or his partner can get the ball.
But last season in the injury forced absence of John Carew he played a fair bit with his back to the goal bringing his link up play on leaps and bounds as well as his aerial ability. His awareness has improved as well as his touch and the little bulk he has put on is allowing him to compete with the best defenders the Premier League has to offer and at the same time retaining his pace.
Before the match against Aston Villa at the start of the month it was Defoe that was expected to shine having just scored 5 against Wigan but Agbonlahor upstaged him with a strike that Martin O’Neill said was reminiscent of Defoe himself or Michael Owen.
It is not so much a case of him not being good enough rather its is who he is competing with that keeps him out of people’s thoughts when discussing Capello’s options. With Wayne Rooney a cert, Agbonlahor has to compete with Bent, Defoe, Heskey, Crouch, Owen and Cole for a place in Capello’s England squad. All of those seem more fashionable options but I think he is just as good if not better than some of those names.
He has improved and his goal return as well as his performances are a testament to this. So although he may not be in the picture now, with Villa forcing their way into the fight for 4th place, Agbonlahor too could force his way into everyone’s thoughts if he carries on scoring.