Gabby Agbonlahor wants to prove an Aston Villa striker for all seasons
The evidence is compelling: 10 goals in total in the 2006/07 season, but only two scored between November '06 and April '07. 11 goals in the 2007/08 season, but none between January and end of March '08. 12 goals last season, but just two after Christmas. So when he went six games without scoring after Villa's 1-0 win at Old Trafford this season, in mid-December, it was a case of 'what's new?' Imagine Martin O'Neill's relief, then, when Agbonlahor took his Premier League total into double figures with two goals in the space of just four minutes at the weekend, during Villa's 2-0 victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage. It is hard to picture the 23 year-old sitting under special lamps, designed to replicate sunlight and stimulate the release of serotonin, but whatever he has done, by equalling his best-ever tally for a season, he has gone some way towards dispelling the notion that he is of little use at the fag end of the season. Aston Villas happy travels continue with victory over West BromIt comes at just the right time. O'Neill has taken a risk by not bringing in a new centre-forward in the January transfer window, bearing in mind the other options at his disposal. We all know what Emile Heskey's scoring record is like. John Carew is more than capable, but his temperament and fitness (those of a suspicious nature would say they are one and the same) render him unreliable. Nathan Delfouneso has the happy knack this season of scoring every time he starts, but it is understood the 18 year-old has not progressed as fast as had been hoped, and O'Neill has openly admitted he would not want too much pressure placed on such young shoulders. Agbonlahor's goals against Fulham are especially welcome, then. 'That would be a major confidence boost to him to know he is able to get those goals,' O'Neill agreed. 'The second goal followed because he'd already got the first one and the confidence was restored. He knows how important he is to us. If he feels that the team are delighted with him, he should get enough confidence from that.' With so much riding on his form, though, it is not enough to rely on confidence, a fickle beast at the best of times. He has improved physically by spending time pumping iron in the Bodymoor Heath gym over the summer, now he needs to improve technically, particularly his anticipation, for he is still too static in the penalty area. As O'Neill explained: 'We have got players who can deliver a great ball, and on reflection, when you are a bit static in the box, the chance has gone begging. He realises just stepping in front of people, he has got the strength to hold them off in case they fight back.' It is worth remembering that the contribution from the midfield this season has been laudable, but if Robbie Savage is correct when he says a team is only as good as its strikers, it would not be going too far to say that how Agbonlahor performs over the remaining months will be fundamental to how Villa finish in the race for fourth place. That he has scored so soon - by his standards - into the new year is a good omen.
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