Aston Villa Club Focus – Agbonlahor leads the way as Villa maintain unbeaten start

Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor may have to start seeing a specialist over his recurring back injury, but that has not stopped him from starting the season in blistering form for Alex McLeish’s side. The 24-year-old’s form has provoked unheeded calls for England manager Fabio Capello to include him in the squad for the crunch Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on Friday, but the problem that the Italian faces is whether Agbonlahor would even be fit enough to play.

The Villa star certainly showed his scintillating best yesterday against a lacklustre Wigan side. Pre-match, the hype was surrounding Charles N’Zogbia following his switch from Wigan to Villa Park in the summer, but N’Zogbia was only on the bench as Villa ran riot. Agbonlahor opened the scoring with a smartly taken goal after smartly taking on Wigan defender Gary Caldwell.

Villa’s second was a simple tap-in from Darren Bent, but it was all Agbonlahor’s work as he battled for the ball in midfield before turning on the burners to jet away from Wigan’s defence and deliver a pinpoint ball for Bent to tuck away. Agbonlahor is now focused on sorting out this recurring back injury that could derail his progress and is pleased with the way his season has gone.

Agbonlahor said: “I’ve got a back problem which I’m going to get sorted during the international break. I’m going to see a specialist about it, but overall, I feel okay and I feel good about things. The manager knows what I am capable of.

McLeish has been the first to comment on the remarkable ability of Agbonlahor and after a difficult term last season under Gerard Houllier, the Scotsman is starting to see the quality that his players possess within a better dressing room environment. McLeish also hailed the input of his creative players, such as Agbonlahor and impressive Scottish midfielder Barry Bannan, following the win.

The former Birmingham City boss said: “It was a good performance. At last, we had big levels from our creative players. That’s probably what’s been missing in the past few games. Charles is finding his feet, Benty has been injured, wee Barry has come in and is starting to look impressive. Gabby has so much to offer and he’s better than I thought. The attitude and application so far is that of a determined player.

Bulgaria and Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov has tipped Agbonlahor to become an England regular and potentially a world-class player, judging on current form. Petrov said: “I don’t think there should be any doubt about Fabio Capello picking Gabby for England. I wouldn’t even think about it. He deserves to be there. He has great ambitions and we will probably see him back in the England jersey.

The only worry that faces Agbonlahor is the recurring back injury, which could derail his progression as an England player. If the Villa forward can address the situation and get the problem fixed, he could have a very bright future for both club and country.

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