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N’Zogbia – To Play or Not to Play vs Wigan?

Villa were left down-heartened by an injury time equaliser courtesy of a Richard Dunne own goal last weekend and will be looking to stop a run of 4 straight draws in the league as they host Wigan.

While the unfortunate Dunne was otherwise faultless on the day, the trip to QPR saw Charles N’Zogbia put in another abject performance, leading many to call change with the Frenchman dropping out. If this were any other game I would suggest that Alex McLeish would be seriously considering that option, however, the chance to unleash the winger against his former club, with N’Zogbia undoubtedly knowing more about the weaknesses of his ex-teammates, could well see the up-to-now abject performer keep his place.

If one looks at it from another perspective, it could be suggested that dropping N’Zogbia against his former club would give out a stronger message, not only to the player but the rest of the side, that no-ones place is guaranteed. It could therefore be the kick up the arse he needs. Again on the other hand, kicking a player in the arse whose confidence is already clearly low could just lead to a bruised arse and ego.

The wide man’s inclusion or exclusion could have ramifications on the entire attacking set-up of a defensive team of late. I would hazard a guess that if playing, N’Zogbia would play on the left of a 4-man midfield, with Bannan potentially on the opposite flank. The France international could play on this side in order to get at Wigan’s right-back, who due to injuries could be an unfamiliar inclusion in the shape of Ronnie Stam, with Emmerson Boyce still doubtful.

The fitness of Darren Bent will also determine the line-up, with the striker set to partner Gabby Agbonlahor if N’Zogbia plays. If the former Wigan man is dropped and Bent is deemed fit, Agbonlahor may revert back to a role in attack on the left, with Stephen Ireland potentially keeping his place after a decent second half at QPR. Jermaine Jenas may also be available and if McLeish deems the loanee as match fit, he could start in place of Fabian Delph alongside Stiliyan Petrov. The image (above) shows a likely 4-4-2 with N’Zogbia included while the image below highlights a possible 4-2-3-1 with the winger omitted.

In other news defenders Carlos Cuellar and Ciaran Clark are back in training after lay-offs, though the back-four is unlikely to change. Alex McLeish could also recall Emile Heskey, who has recovered from a hamstring injury and is likely to make the squad for Saturday’s game.

Wigan will be without Antolin Alcaraz at the back, meaning Maynor Figueroa should continue in the centre with Chelsea’s Van Aanholt on the left. Main striker Hugo Rodallega is also injured so Roberto Martinez will be relying on the likes of Franco Di Santo, who up to this season was the opposite of prolific, for goals. The player to watch out for is likely to be Victor Moses, doing a fairly decent job of filling into N’Zogbia’s vacated boots at the DW Stadium.

Villa’s new signing opened the scoring for the visitors in this fixture last season, eventually ending in a disappointing 1-1 draw, and who would bet against him being highly involved this time around!
Of the sides’ 12 games overall, 9 have seen 3 or less goals scored, with the hosts boasting a decent defensive record thus far. Both teams have failed to net twice, with Wigan only scoring once away from home in their 3 games this season. Villa have scored 3 of their 4 home goals in the first half, while Wigan’s one strike also came in the opening 45 minutes, meaning a quick start could be important and I would hope Villa will realise that. Although one would expect a home win, don’t be surprised to see Wigan control possession in this one, but their lack of cutting edge and frailties at the back should (fingers crossed) see Villa back to winning ways.

Pre-Match Predictions

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Given; Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Bannan, Petrov, Jenas, N’Zogbia; Bent, Agbonlahor

Key Man: Charles N’Zogbia (if he plays!)

Goalscorer(s): Bent, N’Zogbia

Final Score: 2-0



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