One to Watch - Gabriel Agbonlahor
Name: Gabriel Agbonlahor
Date of Birth: 13/10/1986
Former Clubs: Watford, Sheffield Wednesday
League Appearances (Goals): 197 (51)
International Appearances (Goals): 3 (0)
Stat of the Day: 15 of Gabriel Agbonlahor`s 52 league goals have been scored in the last 15 minutes of the 90 minutes
With Darren Bent ruled out for Sunday, as well as the summer departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, the attacking force of Aston Villa will now fall on 24-year-old Gabriel Agbonlahor. Pace, pace, strength, a keen eye for goal and more pace have led to the rise of Agbonlahor, a graduate of the youth academy at Villa. Having been employed as an attacking right winger for the majority of this season, Armand Traore will certainly have his work cut out in stopping an Agbonlahor that has started the season in fine form, netting three times in five league appearances.
The pacy forward may have been in the overwhelming minority welcoming Alex McLeish on board at Villa Park, but having endured his worst season under manager Gerard Houllier last season, Agbonlahor is finally fit and enjoying his football again. Having won the club`s Player of the Month award for August and establishing a deadly partnership with Darren Bent, Agbonlahor can now concentrate on continuing his impressive form without worrying about his manager claiming he should lay off the weights because he is 'too stocky`. The English striker is highly rated by Fabio Capello and a high scoring season could lead to an inclusion in England`s Euro 2012 squad.
Agbonlahor came through the ranks at Aston Villa, and experienced loan spells at Watford and Sheffield Wednesday as an 18 year old in 2005 in order to gain first team experience. He was given his first team debut at Villa by manager David O`Leary in 2006, where he managed to score in a 4-1 defeat to Everton. It was the 2006/2007 season under Martin O`Neill where Agbonlahor burst onto the scene, playing every minute of Aston Villa`s campaign up until February. He scored ten league goals including goals against each of the so called 'big four`. The following campaign was another fruitful season for the striker as he netted a further 13 goals including vital goals against Manchester United and rivals Birmingham City.
Following a contract extension in August 2008, Agbonlahor started the 08/09 season in fine fashion scoring a 'perfect hat-trick` in a 4-2 victory over Man City. He began to form a successful partnership with fellow striker John Carew as he managed to score 9 times before Christmas, leading to his first England cap in November against Germany. . The latter part of the season was less successful for the striker as fans began to grow frustrated with his less than inspiring performances. The 2009/2010 campaign saw Agbonlahor back to his best where he finished the season with 13 league goals, 16 goals in all competitions.
Last season saw the striker struggle to make a significant impact under manager Gerard Houiller, citing a 'frustrating set-up` as the reason for his inconsistent performances. There is no doubt, however, that Agbonlahor is revelling in the new set up at Villa Park and will be eager to continue his fine early form.