A Birmingham-born youth academy graduate, local boy Gabby Agbonlahor is treasured and adored by the Villa Park faithful.
The 26-year-old became Aston Villa’s all-time Premier League top-scorer last April after notching his 61st goal to overtake clinical ex-Villan Dwight Yorke.
However, despite contributing so much throughout eight years with his beloved club, Agbonlahor has never elevated his status to the heights suggested possible by his undoubtable attacking threat.
Loyalty to a club is becoming a rare trait in modern football and the mercurial striker has never publicly expressed a desire to move on to more prestigious pastures.
Despite his admirable devotion to Aston Villa, Agbonlahor may have scuppered any chance of furthering his career beyond mid-table obscurity and relegation dogfights.
The half-Nigerian forward has failed to exhibit any significant progression in his game and is still virtually the same jet-heeled striker that joined the Villa youth ranks in 1994.
Of course, Agbonlahor is now an accomplished goal-scorer, but the former England Under-21 international has neglected the necessity to expand his game beyond sheer athleticism. In doing so, his reliance on speed has become overly predictable and less damaging against particularly nimble Premier League defenders such as Laurent Koscielny and Sylvain Distin.
The English striker has reached double figures in three of his eight Premier League seasons, but he has also endured prolonged dry spells in front of goal. Agbonlahor hit the back of the net a measly three times in 26 appearances during the 2010/11 season – a disappointing return for a campaign marred only by a minor groin strain early in the year.
Elite goal-scorers produce impressive tallies with near-faultless regularity, and this consistency partially hinges on the service provided by surrounding teammates.
Aston Villa, a notably youthful side, is unable to play matches on their own terms and often resort to hitting teams on the break in hope more than expectation. Agbonlahor is an unfortunate victim of a gradual yet promising transition period in which a lack of creative support and freedom in positioning inadvertently confine his influence on the game.
The 26-year-old is lethal on the counter attack, but his willingness and obligation to fulfil defensive duties restrict him from fully exploiting his deadly combination of speed and goal-poaching instincts.
Despite contributing nine goals this season, Agbonlahor has been overshadowed by the sensational Christian Benteke. The Belgian looks set to spearhead Aston Villa's Premier League resurgence, but only if Paul Lambert can shield him from the clutches of bigger clubs - a possible telling factor in Agbonlahor's future at Villa Park.
Could a move to a more competitive club release Agbonlahor's undoubtable poaching talent? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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