According to Steve Bruce, there is ‘no better striker in the Championship than Gabby Agbonlahor’.
To many, Steve Bruce is either playing Football Manager 2009 or Fifa Ultimate Team. There is no sane reason someone would dare place Gabby Agbonlahor at the pinnacle of the Championship’s many strikers, let alone Villa’s bulging strikeforce.
So why, why oh why would Steve Bruce say that? Let’s dig in and analyse Gabby against the rest of Villa’s forwards. I’ll break it down for you in a numbered list so it’s easier to digest.
Is Gabby Agbonlahor better than...
- Jonathan Kodjia - No
- Ross McCormack - No
- Jordan Ayew - No
- Jack Grealish - No
- Albert Adomah - No
- Rudy Gestede - No
- Rushian Hepburn-Murphy - No
- Libor Kozak - Maybe
So, with the hard-hitting analysis out of the way, we know Gabby is clearly an eighth-choice player from ability. Jack Grealish, McCormack, Adomah and Ayew are ahead of him on the wing, Grealish, Ayew, McCormack would be the better options behind the striker and every single person apart from Libor Kozak on that list should ideally start ahead of him as a striker.
So the question now is this: What in the world can Gabby Agbonlahor offer to Aston Villa?
Pace is the obvious answer. Gabby is likely the fastest player at the club, even with the timber he has applied to his shapely form over the past few years. Pace isn’t every thing, though and there’s the slight fact that nearly every single striker in the Aston Villa squad is probably a better finisher than him. There’s almost no reason Gabby should be near the team, unless...
Unless what? Unless he turns around a three-year stagnation period and fulfils a potential that was previously unheralded by well, anyone, Gabby’s career may be quickly fading into the twilight unless he can provided long-term value to Aston Villa.
In the short-term, that value can be found in replacing Jonathan Kodjia in the event that the Ivorian is injured, or on international duty with Côte d’Ivoire, as he likely will be during the Africa Cup of Nations this winter. Kodjia and Agbonlahor are very similar players in the fact that they are incredibly direct players who will run straight for goal. Jordan Ayew and Ross McCormack are too calculating and Rudy Gestede is a completely different player. This means that if Bruce can get Agbonlahor back in form for Aston Villa they can plan for the potential loss of Kodjia without changing the team and its tactics too much. Of course, Agbonlahor has a steep cliff to climb before he matches the talent of Villa’s new fan-favourite, but in an ideal world he would be a solid deputy for Kodjia’s role.
In the long-term? Agbonlahor may have a slim chance at Villa. He has made an impact of sorts during his last two appearances for Villa where he has pressed the back-line late on and tried to force errors from the defence. This role is absolutely perfect for the beleaguered forward and limits his playing time to a half at most. Playing as a defensive-forward means that Gabby won’t be expected to do much at all and would have a better time pursuing defences and applying pressure than Rudy Gestede. This allows the club to continue to develop Rushian Hepburn-Murphy as well as fitting in their large striking numbers to do the key thing - win games.
Sentimentality has no room in football and that applies for the positive as much as it does for the negative. If Gabby Agbonlahor has a role to play at Aston Villa in 2016 as judged by Steve Bruce, then he has a role to play; even if he isn’t the best striker in the Championship.