Gabriel Agbonlahor investigation epitomises a murky Aston Villa season

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The gradual demise of Aston Villa Football Club is a troublesome and chaotic narrative, and just to add insult to injury, Gabby Agbonlahor has been suspended until further notice.

It has emerged that the striker will not play for his club until the Premier League has carried out an internal investigation into his conduct.

His crime? The 29-year-old was pictured appearing to hold a shisha pipe whilst on holiday in Dubai during the international break. Villa caretaker boss Eric Black made the decision to remove Agbonlahor from the first team squad because he didn't want anything to "distract the players."


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But this incident is just another anecdote in the rapid downfall of the club and their depressing 2015/16 Premier League campaign. Is anybody surprised that the players are spiralling and descending into a state of self-rule? What left is there to distract the squad from the impending inevitability of relegation?

The fact is, under chairman Randy Lerner's leadership, the club has been on a turbulent journey to the second tier of English football for the past few years. Through gaining an undesirable reputation from selling their biggest players to the untimely departures of various managers, a whole host of contributing factors are simply piling up next to the debris outside Villa Park.

Last Tuesday, Remi Garde left his post as Villa boss after a mere 147 days - which was unsurprisingly dubbed the latest episode in a story of crisis. The Frenchman left the club by mutual consent, after winning only two of their 20 league games during Garde's reign and he left them in bottom place, 12 points adrift from safety with seven games left.

Garde's appointment was in the first instance an ambitious long shot, which unsurprisingly culminated in failure and embarrassment. The 49-year-old replaced Tim Sherwood at the beginning of November last year, and chairman Lerner gave the fans reason to get excited after a scarce public exclamation. Villa's American owner spoke highly of the club's new manager, expressing his faith in a man who he claimed knew what it would take for Aston Villa to fulfil its long-awaited notoriety.

Only five months down the line and keen advocate of mismanagement Lerner is probably regretting his choice of words when introducing the new manager to the Premier League. Villa have picked up a lacklustre 16 points from 31 games, which is the third-worst performance of any league season at this stage in Premier League history - following Watford in 1999/00 and Bradford in 2000/01.

With just a 10% win ratio, Garde might argue that despite initial backing from his chairman, the support was not there when he needed it the most. This can be further argued when his obligation of new signings in the January transfer window were not delivered, leading one to assume: is Randy Lerner to blame for the mess the club find themselves in?

The past four seasons have agitated Villa fans, the club finishing no higher than 15th in the league and selling off their most promising players throughout that time. The heightening downfall can be traced back to the departure of Martin O'Neill at the start of the 2010/11 season - and since then, Villa have struggled to keep a man in charge for more than two years, with the exception of Paul Lambert who lost twice as many games as he won.

James Milner and Gareth Barry were sold to Manchester City for a combined fee of £38 million, Ashley Young sold to United for £17 million and Stewart Downing to Liverpool for £20 million a year later and last summer, the Villains failed to hold on to key players Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph. Albeit, the club have negotiated some good deals financially speaking but these are not the actions of a club with high aspirations - through the loss of these players, Villa lost its leaders and arguably their direction.

Randy Lerner hasn't attended a press conference since 2010 and seems to have lost the faith of the Villa supporters. Communication is the key to running a successful fan-base and at a family club like Aston Villa, this should be the case. But instead, the enigmatic chairman is the subject of a fan-fuelled witch hunt. In nine years in charge, Lerner has seen the back of four chief executives and six managers and despite increased commercial turnover and exciting revenue flows, it means nothing to the people who have supported Villa all their life.

Aston Villa are part of an exclusive Premier League club that also contains the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. They are one of only seven clubs to have never been relegated from the English top-flight division - but that group on its way to becoming six, unless a miracle is found lurking within the depths at Villa Park.

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Micah Richards
Joleon Lescott
England Football
Premier League
Aston Villa
Gabriel Agbonlahor

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