Villans looking for inspiration to strike Belgian hit man may want to look elsewhere.
It’s well documented now, that Tim Sherwood got Emmanuel Adebayor fleetingly back to his best during his short stint as Tottenham boss last season. Having stagnated since his first brilliant year at White Heart Lane, the Togolese striker just wasn’t being given the chance to shine, and when he was, he squandered it.
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A late flourish saw Adebayor end the previous campaign with 11 goals in the league (14 in all competitions) and both Sherwood himself and a number of Spurs fans credit the manager with the turnaround.
Sherwood now finds himself in charge at Aston Villa, who have a talented squad but have largely been unable to find the net on any sort of regular basis this season. Strange, considering they have a prolific marksman like Christian Benteke in the ranks.
However, those who are hoping to see Sherwood rejuvenate Benteke in the way he did with Adebayor may be waiting a while. Though Adebayor and Benteke share similar traits in terms of power and areal ability, it is actually Gabriel Agbonlahor that will likely benefit the most.
For better or worse, there is every chance that Benteke will be on his way out of the club this summer. Former boss Paul Lambert managed to convince him to stay at the end of his first season, and injury last summer prevented him from leaving again, but this time around Randy Lerner’s penny pinching could receive a huge shot in the arm from a potential bid from elsewhere.
But this is no shock, Villa fans are resigned to the fact that the Belgian international will leave sooner or later – striker’s have come and gone before and the club has always managed to replace them.
Though there is one constant at Villa Park, and that’s Agbonlahor. Now Villa’s record highest goalscorer in the Premier League, it’s almost certain that he will be with the club until he hangs up his boots. Having previously expressed a desire to emulate Ryan Giggs by adapting himself to another role as age catches up with him; he won’t be going anywhere soon.
This is also based on the fact that no manager has ever wanted to not use him. Blessed with frightening speed and a tremendous upper body strength, several manager’s have frequently attempted to use him as a winger instead of as a striker, which is his natural position.
Over the years Agbonlahor’s goal tally has depleted, along with his threat. He can usually be counted on for a few crucial goals, though that’s sadly as good as it gets. But why?
When he is on form, the former England international can pose a very unique threat to opposition defences, but one place he won’t provide that – despite his incredible speed – is the wing. Agbonlahor, put simply, isn’t a dribbler.
Where Gabby is strongest, is through the middle. Full-backs can usually get the better of him, as they are equipped to deal with pacey wide men more than centre-backs are. Put him through the middle, though, on a defender’s shoulder, and there are seldom few that really know how to contain him.
He demonstrated this perfectly in Villa’s 2-1 win over West Brom last week, and further evidence can be found in Villa’s 4-2 demolition of Manchester City at the beginning of the 2008-09 season, and later that same campaign in the dramatic late victory over Everton.
He’s instinctive, and not graced with exceptional footballing intelligence, but he seems to know when to check his runs back onside before unleashing hell on his opponents.
Seeing as he will always be here, the rediscovery of Agbonlahor’s form would be the more prudent investment than making sure Christian Benteke is firing on all cylinders again, though, if Sherwood could make that happen as well then you won’t hear any complaints!
Villa will hope to see this season as short term pain for long term gain, and with Sherwood utilising the team’s assets correctly, they may just get their wish.