92 clubs favourite players – Aston Villa – Gabriel Agbonlahor

The second of the 92 clubs I am going to choose my favourite player from is Aston Villa and they have been a solid team in the Premier League for a long time and have even qualified for Europe on several occasions.

The player I have chosen is someone that has been at the club through some tough times and also some good times and that man is Gabriel Agbonlahor. He has played for Villa under six different managers and has the achievement to have scored under every single one of them. This includes Kevin MacDonald, David O’Leary, Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, Martin O’Neill and now Paul Lambert. It was under O’Neill that he really started to show his potential by scoring 49 goals in 175 games and helping them to good finishes in the league. This season so far the goals haven’t been flowing for him but in his first five Premier League games he has assisted four goals and shown that he has had to adapt his game over the years from a central striker to a winger and he is still a massive threat to every team.
Agbonlahor]
It did take him a few years to adapt to the new role after an impressive start to his career as a striker. In his first four full seasons at the club he scored double figures in all of these in the Premier League and now has 63 goals in the league all together and will be hoping that he can get into the elite group of players that has scored 100 goals in the Premier League in the coming years. Last year he returned to goal scoring form by getting 12 goals in all competitions and by linking up with Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann he will get more opportunities to score and assist goals.

Personally I think Agbonlahor should have been given more chances in the England set up, he does have three caps and performed quite well in all of the games particularly in a win against Germany where he had a goal disallowed and caused real problems with his pace. Recently England have been struggling to find consistent wingers and front men which is why I cannot believe he hasn’t even been called up recently. His form is certainly better than Ashley Young and adds a lot more going forward than James Milner. Plus he has a lot more experience than Andros Townsend and Raheem Sterling and is still only 26 so he has a lot to offer.

He came through the Villa youth team so obviously the fans are going to like him a lot but something else that makes them love him is the fact that he has a brilliant record against one of their nearest rivals Birmingham City. Scoring four times in seven games in the Midlands Derby is a very good record and his performances have helped his side beat their rivals in five of the seven games you know the fans will have a lot of respect for your talents.

Who is your favourite player at Aston Villa? Does Agbonlahor deserve another chance on the international stage? Can Paul Lambert get the best out of Agbonlahor?

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Will Sunderland get relegated this season?

Sunderland are not in the greatest form at the moment and with two more injuries they may struggle to pick enough points.

Striker Steven Fletcher and midfielder Lee Cattermole have been ruled out for the rest of the season and they have been vital for the club, especially Fletcher who is their leading goal scorer with 11 goals. Cattermole is the club captain but he hasn’t been able to play that often this season because of injuries and maybe that is why they are now struggling because they don’t have a tough tackler in the middle of midfield. However, I’m not a big fan of Cattermole and don’t think he offers a lot but gets away with it simply because he is English and puts in a lot of effort and gets the crowd going by charging into tackles.

Fletcher was signed from Wolves last summer

Fletcher was signed from Wolves last summer


Martin O’Neill does have problems now as they do not have a lot of goals around the team after Fletcher and will now have to rely heavily on January signing Danny Graham who hasn’t had a great start to his career at the club. The fans haven’t taken to him because of his past and that he is a Newcastle United fan but he proved last season at Swansea City that he can score goals and put in good performances. He may now be able to kick on and thrive under the pressure and if he doesn’t then the only other out and out striker is Connor Wickham and he has hardly kicked a ball under O’Neill and during his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday he only got one goal and could be one for the future but they need something now and it could really cost them.
Graham needs to pick up form soon

Graham needs to pick up form soon


Selling Frazier Campbell may well have been a good decision at the time but now it seems like a disaster because they really don’t have the options and will probably have to play with one up front and hope Graham produces the goods. The midfield should have been performing a lot better than they have this year too as well, Adam Johnson has not played anywhere near as well as most expected and just drifts out of games too often and doesn’t affect play at all. Even more remarkably is the lack of form of James McClean because he was very good last year but seems to have been found out.

Stephane Sessegnon will be the most important player now for Sunderland because he can unlock defences and grab the odd goal. Now, he may also get to play in his best position in my opinion which is just behind the striker and he will cause more problems than when he is on the wing.

Can Sessegnon be Sunderland's goal scorer?

Can Sessegnon be Sunderland’s goal scorer?


Sunderland’s second top scorer this season is Craig Gardner but he has been playing at right back and most of his goals have came from the penalty spot, I think he should be playing in the middle of the midfield but he looks to be a first choice right back at the moment.

Do Sunderland have enough to stay up in the Premier League?

Is Aiden McGeady’s future in the Premier League and who would he help improve?

Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady has been linked with a move to the Premier League in the last couple of days because his agent has said that he would consider a move if an offer came in for him.

The former Celtic man has been in Russia since 2010 and has been in good form in recent weeks which has made a lot of clubs notice him once again. When he left Celtic he went off the radar slightly as in the past he has been in a very similar position with many teams wanting his services. He won the Player of the Month award three times whilst at Celtic as well as four Young Player of the Month awards so there is no doubting his qualities.

So would any Premier League teams want him and will they be willing to pay quite a high transfer fee for him? Spartak paid around £9.5 million for the winger so they will want at least that if not more but if the player claims he is not happy in Russia and wants to move back to the UK then their hands may be tied and will have to sell him. But, let’s look at who would be interested in him. First team that comes to mind is Sunderland because Martin O’Neill gave him his chance at Celtic and obviously knows what he can bring to the side. His trickery on the wing would be a very useful asset to most teams and a team like Sunderland who are quick on the counter attack could certainly use him. However, Sunderland do have a lot of wingers currently with James McClean, Seb Larsson and new signing Adam Johnson on the books but Larsson could play inside as a central midfielder and even McGeady could play inside just behind the striker. Yet again though, that would cause problems with Stephane Sessegnon usually playing in that role. If Sunderland want to be genuine contenders for a European place or trophies then I think they need some better players and McGeady would give them a lot of strength in depth.

Next, I think that Aston Villa, if they could afford him should be looking to sign him in January as they do have quite a young side and some of their wingers just haven’t lived up to their potential, in particular, Charles N’Zogbia. With Marc Albrighton and Gabriel Agbonlahor (who I think will definitely be a winger under Paul Lambert) struggling with a few injuries at the moment they do seem a little weak out wide. Barry Bannan is inexperienced so he will not be able to produce his best every week and Brett Holman is new to the league so he may also be inconsistent for the first few weeks. If they brought in McGeady they would have a little extra cutting edge and someone that can do something a little special when the game isn’t going quite right for them which is something I think they lack at the moment.

Finally, a team that may be looking to sign him is Newcastle United because they, like Villa, also lacking that little bit of spark, especially if Hatem Ben Arfa is having an off day. They are another team that doesn’t have many wingers that are going to be able to produce consistently. Jonas Gutierrez always does a solid job but in the attacking third his final ball isn’t the best. Sylvain Marveux has had injury problems and has only started two games in the Premier League so he is a difficult one to judge but then the next option is Gabriel Obertan who has not lived up to his potential at either Manchester United or Newcastle so they should maybe look to get rid of him in January anyway and a perfect replacement would be Aiden McGeady.

Will Jermain Defoe leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer?

Jermain Defoe may be the only experienced striker at Tottenham Hotspur but surprisingly he has been linked with a move away.

Defoe has scored 15 goals in 48 games for England

Last season was a frustrating one for the former Portsmouth striker as he only started 11 Premier League games and was constantly overlooked because Harry Redknapp wanted to play with Rafael Van Der Vaart just behind Emmanuel Adebayor. He wouldn’t have fit into their system that well last year in my opinion and that is the reason why he struggled for game time. When he on the pitch though he mostly produced the goods scoring 11 times in his 25 appearances and 17 in 38 games in all competitions so he has proved he does still have the quality to succeed in the Premier League and his career isn’t coming to an end. I was very surprised to see him linked with a move away but maybe he just isn’t an Andre Villas-Boas type of player but with a deal for Adebayor not completed yet he may be forced to use Defoe at least for the start of the season. The England international has 195 goals in his career so far and will be desperate to get to 200 goals as quickly as possible and to do that he may have to leave if he isn’t guaranteed first team football.

QPR have been heavily linked with him and they do have the funds to buy him and pay the wages so I can’t see why this transfer wouldn’t go through unless the player himself wants to play for a team challenging at the top of the table. However, QPR are building a good squad and may be outsiders for a European place in the coming season and could be a good shout for a cup win. He could compliment Bobby Zamora very well and has been a more consistent goal scorer than both Andy Johnson and Djibril Cisse so he could help push the club onto the next level.

Martin O’Neill is also keen on Defoe and Sunderland could do with a goal scorer as they haven’t really replaced Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan in recent years with Nicklas Bendtner coming in on loan last season. It is unclear whether he will come back either on loan or permanently again so they will have to look elsewhere. A major problem could be that Defoe hasn’t played for anyone in the north so he may be reluctant to move to the area.

Finally, Aston Villa could be looking at the striker and this would be an interesting move as Darren Bent is also at the club and when they were both at Tottenham together they didn’t really play that often and that could mean that they weren’t a good partnership. I can’t see them working well together but maybe I will be proved wrong. If he did sign then they would have a quick attack with Bent, Defoe and Agbonlahor so they would be very threatening on the counter attack and would cause a lot of problems for their opposition.

Who will be the next Aston Villa manager?

Aston Villa have had a disappointing season to say the least and Alex McLeish has took the blame for it.

McLeish only won 21.43% of his games in charge

McLeish and Villa were never going to work out anyway in my opinion, the fans didn’t want him and he plays negative football which is why the club failed to win more games than they did and were sucked into a relegation battle. This time Randy Lerner has to make a good choice or Villa’s place in the Premier League is seriously under threat, since Martin O’Neill left the club it has been in decline. In McLeish’s defence he had to deal with a lot of injuries to key players, in particular Darren Bent but still more was expected of the side and at least a challenge for the top 10 would have been nice for the fans.

So who is going to be the next manager? The current favourite is Paul Lambert of Norwich City as he has had a fantastic season with them and has proved that you don’t need big names to be successful in the Premier League. He has got a lot of players that are quite young and have the potential to grow which is exactly what Villa need right now, with a lot of impressive youngsters coming through like Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan. Lambert has a very impressive record winning 42.46% of his 325 games as a manager and will add vibrancy and reinvigorate the club which is exactly what chief executive Paul Faulkner has said they are looking for. Norwich won’t let him go easily and maybe he will see it as a step sideways and decide against the move.

Mick McCarthy, the former Wolves manager is also linked with the job and this surprised me slightly as he was sacked as manager of Wolves and has never done anything better in the Premier League than battle relegation. I would expect more ambition from a club like Villa but maybe they are thinking that McCarthy did a good job on the whole with Wolves and with better players at his disposal he will be able to lead the team into the top half. He is unemployed and knows that the Premier League so he could be a good choice however I can see the fans reacting just as negatively to this as they did with McLeish.

Finally, yet again Roberto Martinez is linked with the role and he wanted to stay at Wigan Athletic last summer but maybe things have changed and he will be more interested now. If they can drag him away from Wigan then they will have a fantastic manager who likes his teams to play a passing game and is also someone that doesn’t mind trying new things out. His formation of 3-4-3 has worked magnificently towards the end of the season and even the best teams in the league have been unable to deal with it. But Martinez will be thinking if I have one bad season they might sack me. So I think he will stay at Wigan but if Villa give him the chance, they need to make sure they stick by him.

If I was the chairman, I would do everything I could to get Martinez in charge of my team as he has kept Wigan up for a number of years now and he has stuck to his own game plan for the most of it. The players will enjoy the freedom and creativity he will give them and they will prosper under him and maybe challenge for Europe once again.

Gabriel Agbonlahor named new Aston Villa captain

Gabriel Agbonlahor has been named the new Aston Villa captain after the news that Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

 

Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored over 50 goals for Aston Villa

Everyone will be hoping that he makes a full recovery and he can play football again whether it be next season or even the season after. It would be fantastic to see him leading out the team again at Villa Park but for now the club has to look at securing their place in the Premier League. They had to name a new captain and Agbonlahor was a very good candidate. Although they could have went for James Collins or Shay Given who have a little more experience, they decided that Gabby’s love for the club would be the better option.

So let’s have a look at Agbonlahor’s career and see if he has the potential to lead out the team and be a good captain. He made his Premier League debut at the age of 19 against Everton and scored in the game, unfortunately the team went on to lose 4-1 but he showed enough potential and ability to the Villa fans that he was a promising player and will be very good in the future. He did have two loan spells before this at Watford and Sheffield Wednesday where he didn’t make much of an impact.

In his first full season in the first team he played 42 games scoring 10 goals after new manager Martin O’Neill decided he would be in his first team plans. Starting O’Neill’s first game in charge away to Arsenal on the right wing where he played much of the season which just shows the versatility of the player and how he is willing to play in any position the manager tells him to. He is equally effective in both, with clever movement and frightening pace, he is always on the mind of opposition defenders.

In the following three seasons, he played over 40 games yet again scoring over 10 goals in each which is quite impressive as at times his goal scoring record has been overlooked by pundits and fans alike as well as England managers. Three years in a row he scored over 10 goals in the Premier League (11,11,13) so to me he has proven his worth to Villa and should have more England caps than he currently has. He only has three caps for his country.

Last season was one of his worst but that may have been down to the fact that played less games than usual, only contributing five goals. But the season wasn’t the greatest for the club with O’Neill resigning and them having a pretty bad start to the season especially away from home where they were beaten 6-0 by Newcastle. The squad seemed very unhappy under Gerard Houllier and Gary McAllister which may have been another reason why he personally underperformed.

This season, started very brightly for him putting in some fantastic performances and scoring and creating chances for his team mates. Now he has played over 250 times for the club and putting him for eighth in the all time Premier League appearance list for Aston Villa.

He may not have as much experience as some other players in the squad but he has definitely played a lot of games for a 25 year old and at the same club which means he knows it inside and out therefore he is a great choice for captain.

Everton produce a fantastic performance to beat Sunderland

Everton are through to the semi final of the FA cup after a fantastic victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Moyes will be desperate to win a trophy as manager of Everton

It looked as though Everton may have missed their chance after only drawing at Goodison Park but their performance against Sunderland was one of the best I have ever seen from an away side especially in the second half. Sunderland must have been very optimistic that they could get through and maybe froze under the pressure of being the favourites and this will infuriate Martin O’Neill. Although, in my opinion they shouldn’t have been favourites as Everton have some fantastic players and give every team they come up against a very good game which Manchester City learned earlier in the season.

But onto the game itself and they deserved the win and I don’t think anyone in the stadium could have denied them of that. Nikica Jelavic opened the scoring and his movement and hold up play was a joy to watch at times as the Sunderland players could not cope with him and even though he did miss a few chances, he is exactly what Everton have been missing for a number of years, and that is a proven goal scorer. Maybe this is a slightly harsh assessment as they have had Yakubu, Louis Saha and Andy Johnson but I believe that Jelavic will do better than all of these and may even push the club onto the next level.

What makes it even more surprising that they could perform to such a high standard is that the team were late arriving at the stadium because of heavy traffic and this must have left them feeling slightly unprepared. When the game started though you could see that David Moyes had got his tactics spot on yet again. Their midfield was particularly impressive, and all five of them deserve a lot of praise because they worked very hard for each other and had that little bit of quality which Sunderland lacked. I am going to say that Magaye Gueye impressed me the most, this could be because I haven’t seen a lot of him and wasn’t expecting too much, but every time he had the ball he caused the defence problems and he looked very direct and quick which makes me wonder why he hasn’t had more of a chance since he signed for the club. Leon Osman on the right wing did his usual consistent job and I think it is remarkable how he hasn’t even got an England cap. Is he the best player to have never been capped in recent times? He has a lot more ability than he is given credit for and can play anywhere across the midfield which is a bonus for Moyes.

Tim Cahill’s performance was also pleasing as he is now getting back to the form we all know he is capable of. It looks as though he has got a spring in his step now and it wouldn’t surprise me if he scored a few more times before the season is out.

Liverpool in the semi final now and that could be the biggest game in Moyes’ 10 years in charge as it is not only local pride at stake but it is also beating your local rivals at Wembley for a place in the final.

Should Roger Johnson and Lee Cattermole step down as captains of Wolves and Sunderland

Two club captains this week have been told that even though their behaviour has not been the best they will be keeping the armband.

Sunderland skipper Lee Cattermole was sent off after the final whistle in the game against Newcastle and Roger Johnson allegedly turned up for training drunk. The Wolves captain issued an apology straightaway which was the right thing to do but this is not the type of behaviour young fans should be seeing from their heroes.

Lee Cattermole was an absolute disgrace and even his manager Martin O’Neill could not defend his actions and if he should have taken away the armband because he has not ever shown the qualities of a real captain anyway. Yes he has the passion and the drive to succeed for his club but he takes it too far and picks up needless bookings and gets sent off. In the Newcastle game he got booked in the first 40 seconds for a tackle that may on another day have resulted in a red with the way football is at the moment and he probably only got saved because it was so early in the game. How can you justify him? Gets booked 40 seconds into the game and sent off 60 seconds after the final whistle and the manager expects the rest of the players to follow his example.

Cattermole has now seen red six times in his career

You could say the occasion got to him but this is not a one off, I believe that if he stays in the Premier League his whole career he will eventually get sent off more than any other player in the history of the league unless he calms down a lot. This, however does not seem likely and the manager needs to stop this and maybe if he took away the armband he would learn.

Roger Johnson is arguably worse because you cannot turn up for work drunk so why does he, a professional footballer think it is acceptable to do it. There is a thing with footballers that they all have really big egos and this is just more evidence that they do, it shows a lack of respect for the club and a lack of respect for the new man in charge. He has no defence for what he did, but at least he apologised and this is where I think he may deserve another chance unlike Cattermole because he knows he did wrong and he had a pretty clean slate before this incidence so I am hoping that it is just a one off.

All players are going to make mistakes but these two need to look at themselves more than the others because everyone at the club looks up to the captains and this includes everyone from teammates to youth team players to fans. The manager uses the captain to deliver his messages to the rest of the team and if they can’t be trusted then they need replacing. Both of these players are valuable to their clubs but maybe as recent weeks have shown not as captain.

Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland looking good for Euro 2012

Sunderland’s James McClean has been rewarded for his brilliant form at club level with a call up to the Republic of Ireland squad for their forthcoming game against Czech Republic.

Trapattoni must have been impressed with the way he has took to the Premier League instantaneously after being pushed into the starting line up by new Black Cats manager Martin O’Neill. The winger will be hoping his good form continues as he looks to secure a place in the squad for Euro 2012. This may have been slightly surprising as the Italian manager had stated that he will stick with the squad that qualified for the tournament in the summer but when a player is on form, he has to be given a chance. Maybe some former England managers should have followed his lead as they have constantly picked players that are their favourites rather than giving someone else a chance.

But back to Ireland and the rest of their squad is pretty similar to what we are used to and the only other inclusion which may have raised a few eyebrows is Derby County midfielder Paul Green. Green, scored on his first international start and will be hoping to add to this against the Czechs and give the manager more selection headaches.

The rest of the team is as you would expect, Shay Given the undoubted number one is in there being backed up by Kieran Westwood and David Forde who have both played quite well this season when called upon but unfortunately for them, Given has remained as consistent as ever and will definitely start the Euros in goal unless there is an injury. In the defence, they are missing Richard Dunne who could be a big loss as he is a leader at the back and has been one of the best defenders and possibly most underrated in the Premier League. Shane Duffy has been called up as a possible replacement after looking solid for Everton in the five games he has played this season. So, the only problem is whether he is experienced enough to cope at international level. But, they do still have John O’Shea who has had a new lease of life at Sunderland and is benefiting from playing every week.

The midfield is looking exciting with quick direct wingers in McClean, McGeady and to a lesser extent Damien Duff, but in fairness to Duff in recent seasons he has adapted his game and is still causing opposition defences problems. Also Seamus Coleman is able to play on the wing and when he is on form he is most definitely an Irish version of Gareth Bale as he has the pace to beat players and can produce moments of real magic when his team need it.

Robbie Keane is still in the squad and during his loan spell at Aston Villa he has proved that playing in America has not made him a worse player and his career is not coming to an end. He scored some fantastic goals and his movement is still fantastic and he seems to have a good partnership with Kevin Doyle at international level and could be key not only in the upcoming friendly but the tournament itself. Jon Walters is another underrated player in the Premier League as he does a very good job at Stoke and works his socks off every game so the two upfront know that he will be waiting to take their place. Also the West Brom pair of Shane Long and Simon Cox are decent strikers that have scored quite a few goals in the Premier League between them this season.

Ireland are shaping up nicely for the Euros with a hardworking and organised squad combined with their little bit of flair and skill they could just spring a surprise this summer and give some of the bigger teams a shock. It wouldn’t shock me if they got further in the competition than England.