Fabian Delph’s has had an excellent first three months of the season and has finally begun to fulfil the potential that persuaded Martin O’Neill to sign him in 2009. For the first time at Aston Villa, he has had an extended run in the team, with his manager showing real faith, which has so far been repaid.
It has undoubtedly been a breakthrough season for the 23-year-old, who has struggled with injuries at times during his Villa Park stay, which has now lasted over four years. The signs were there in the second half of last season, where he was part of a more settled Villa side, after the difficulties that were experienced in the early months of Paul Lambert’s reign.
Alongside the likes of Karim El Ahmadi, Yacouba Sylla and Ashley Westwood, his game has developed significantly under Lambert, who has rewarded him with great faith, with his work rate a factor behind Villa’s recent flurry of clean sheets, determination which is spreading among his teammates.
His extended run in the first-team, beating off competition from the now departed Barry Bannan has coincided with a succession of more consistent performances, as being in and out of the team does not allow him to find the fluency to play well regularly. It also helps that Delph is now part of a settled side, which has seen him gain a proper understanding with his fellow midfielders.
The rest of the Villa squad is improving all of the time, which makes Delph’s achievement of winning the club’s Player of the Month award three times out of three all the more impressive. His form has even led Lambert to suggest that a call-up to the England squad might not be too far away, with national team boss Roy Hodgson giving some uncapped players a chance with the World Cup not too far on the horizon.
Unfortunately for Delph, Hodgson has appeared to rule out the chance of any new players being called up between now and the World Cup in the aftermath of the friendlies against Chile and Germany, but should he maintain his form in the next year, a place in the national team squad beyond next summer could be a realistic prospect.
Another player who may have been looking to force his way into the international reckoning is Gabriel Agbonlahor, who already has three England caps, the most recent of which coming in a dead rubber of a World Cup qualifier against Belarus back in October 2009. In the four years since, the winger has been unable to build on the encouraging start he made to his career in the way that many people expected.
And despite returning to form in the last few months, Agbonlahor’s chances of making his fourth cap look remote, particularly in the coming months. Delph is Villa’s best hope for now, and should he receive a call-up in the not-too-distant future, it would be a welcome boost for the club, which has been short of England internationals since O’Neill departed in August 2010.
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