Purchased for £10 million from Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2011, Charles N'Zogbia was supposed to fill the void left by departing wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. He almost singlehandedly kept the Latics up that season, scoring five goals and assisting three in Wigan's final six games of the year. Before picking up 11 of a possible 18 points in those matches, Wigan were bottom, and looked doomed. The transfer fee wasn't exorbitant, even though Wigan held out and forced Villa to pay a bit more than they wanted to. However, N'Zogbia has been disappointing in his three and a half years so far in B6, scoring just five and assisting 16 through 80 matches. He fell out of favour with Paul Lambert (and the fans) after some poor performances in the first half of the season. The low point of his season (and possibly Aston Villa career) came on February 16th. N'Zogbia played for the U21 team, and they lost 3-0 to Derby County.
Since Tim Sherwood came to town, N'Zogbia has been given another chance. And so far, the Frenchman has made the most of it. Two solid performances last week against West Brom has put him firmly back into the first team picture. Similar to Gabby Agbonlahor, he has looked like an entirely different player than the one we saw earlier in the season. In the league game against the Baggies, he was playing a number 10 role - behind the strikers at the top of the midfield diamond. Most recently, in the cup, he was deployed out wide on the right as Sherwood reverted to the 4-3-3.
By no means is N'Zogbia a top player, or even one that Villa want to build the team around going forward, but he isn't useless anymore. At the beginning of the season, we'd see him basically just walking with the ball, and being very careless in possession. Last time out, he assisted the first goal, and the game before he arguably had a better creative influence. I'm not sure if it's better to play him wide or through the middle, but I do know that he can be a useful player for Villa down the stretch in the battle to avoid relegation. He may even be able to offer something from set pieces, an area that has been painfully bad this season. Plus, if he keeps up this form it's like discovering something out of nothing. Everyone had written him off - and rightly so. But he's on expensive wages, so we might as well use him, if he's going to play well.
Are you happy to see N'Zogbia back in the side? Let us know in the comments!