A Quick Post About Nathan Delfouneso

I haven't seen a lot of Nathan Delfouneso (not nearly as much as I'd like) but I have been incredibly impressed with his ability in the times he's been on the pitch. He's obviously incredibly gifted athletically; pace, innate skill, good instincts; I think everyone is excited to see what he can do. But my real reasons for excitement are significantly less glamorous.

Emile Heskey is paid to do one very specific thing; collect the ball, hold it until the break catches up or the attack re-forms, and distribute into space. There is certainly a case to be made that there are better uses of a spot in the rotations (and a very good case to be made that there are better uses of a spot in the starting 11) but Emile Heskey is as God made him and it is unfair to ask him to do more than he is capable of. Heskey is something like a playmaker, just in a more advanced position and significantly less dynamism. He is ostensibly an important part of the attack, but he is often neutralized and unglamorous even when effective.

After Delfouneso entered the game, I found it very difficult not to focus on him. Most people (and I include myself in this, absolutely) will find that their lasting memory of his performance in this match is his twisting finish to put Villa ahead in the 82nd minute. It was clearly a brilliant and important goal, but he impressed me in other ways (both today and in past appearances, it should be said.) I do not believe that Delfouneso's ability to control the ball in tight space and distribute to open attackers is quite as good as Heskey's, but I do not think it is that far behind and it is only going to improve with maturity and experience. On numerous occasions I have seen Delfouneso gather a loose ball, hold off his marker, work his way to space and find an open man to set up the attack. Long breakaways that might typically end in a desperate chance or a goal kick have turned into possessions. When you combine that with his speed and purported scoring ability, he looks to be someone who could develop into a very versatile, very dangerous and incredibly valuable attacker.

There's a fair amount of talk about Villa's need to add a playmaking forward this summer, and I certainly understand this desire. This team has a lot of offensive talent, but it's incredibly frustrating to see smart through balls from the midfield go to waste because Gabby is unable to create his own chances when the opposing defense is playing deep and he has an entire back line to beat. Gabby is a talented distributor in how own right and the thought of two players with such a valuable combination of skills is enough to make a fellow salivate.

I understand that we still have a (very, very, very) outside chance at 4th and that Europa is not yet a given, but I think MON would be very well served to give Delfouneso a much longer look over this final stretch. If he is not quite ready to be a first-team contributor then you can go forward as previously planned with any off-season acquisitions as planned. If he is ready, that could be a tremendous boost to the club. Attacking players are not cheap in terms of transfer fees or the wage budget, but Nathan Delfouneso costs nothing aside from his relatively small wage. Assuming there is money to spend, being able to spend it to fill several holes (depth, particularly in the midfield, and fullback spring immediately to mind) rather than one attacking player has to be seen as a positive.

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