Tactic Talk – Agbonlahor filling the void at Villa

Aston Villa came from behind to beat Norwich City 3-2 at Villa Park, in only their second victory in their last six Premier League games. While the obvious recipient of plaudits will be two-goal Villa striker Darren Bent, the performance of his fellow attacker Gabriel Agbonlahor will be a great boost for Alex McLeish’s side.

Having seen Gareth Barry and James Milner join the revolution at Manchester City in recent years, further high profile departures saw Stewart Downing and Ashley Young move to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively. As the England duo look to establish themselves at their new clubs, Agbonlahor has emerged as a more than capable replacement, typified by his performance in Villa’s comeback win.

Having fallen behind to Anthony Pilkington’s free-kick midway through the first half, Agbonlahor would lead the Villa response, giving Norwich full-back Kyle Naughton a torrid afternoon, with his acceleration and delivery allowing Bent to pounce to put Villa on level terms. Agbonlahor would go on to add his own name to the scoresheet, pouncing on some indecisive defending to slot home and give his side the lead on 48 minutes.

Buoyed by their revival, Villa would add a third, with a familiar feel. Agbonlahor provided the low cross that picked out Bent to effectively seal the three points for the hosts and to cap a standout individual performance.

Operating mainly from the left of a front two alongside Bent, Agbonlahor was a constant threat for Villa, completing 13 passes in the final third, creating four chances, including two goals for the home side. Moving into the channels was particularly fruitful for the forward, beating defenders on no fewer than four occasions when moving into a wide-left position.

Following Young’s summer departure, Agbonlahor has become a key part of Alex McLeish’s side. A striker with a flair for running at full-backs and central defenders alike, his recent performances have allowed him to emerge from the shadow of the likes of Downing and Young, whose plaudits saw interest generated and their consequent transfers.

While there is no suggestion that Agbonlahor is looking to follow suit, one coach the Villa striker will be looking to impress is England boss Fabio Capello. Having earned a recall following his recent fine displays, Agbonlahor will be hoping to make an impression having last been capped in a win over Belarus in 2009. With Capello looking to explore his options with Wayne Rooney facing a ban in the early stages of the Euro 2012 finals, Agbonlahor will be looking to follow former team-mate Young in reproducing his club form on the international stage. His link-up with Bent could prove invaluable in Rooney’s absence.

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