With my Player Review feature having singled out first team stars Ashley Young and Nigel Reo-Coker to date, I wanted to focus on one of the fringe players staking a claim for a first team place. Gabby Agbonlahor has been out for over a month and it is still unsure when he will return and the clubs striker woes have been added to by injury to Emile Heskey this week. Compile this with a lack of form and goals for John Carew and you start to understand why Villa have scored just 1 in their last 4 matches. The strikers have 1 Premier League strike between them which feel to Heskey with Stewart Downing being the only real threat in terms of goals with 3 in the league thus far. Depressed after reading that? Enter Nathan Delfouneso.
Nathan Delfouneso has been raved about for years at Villa Park due to his excellent goal-scoring record at youth and reserve level. The striker is a local lad and at just 19 he has been on the fringes of the Villa first team for 2 years. The hubbub surrounding Delfouneso, fittingly nicknamed the Fonz, is very reminiscent of the arrival of another up and coming forward, who goes by the name of Gabby Agbonlahor, 5 years ago. The two possess similar strengths which led them to becoming leading scorers in their respective days with the youth and reserve sides.
Both are lightning quick which is undoubtedly Agbonlahor’s main threat but Delfouneso appears to have a full skill set to his name. The Fonz is never shy to run with the ball and possesses a certain guile that some may say that Gabby is lacking. Despite being slight in build, the youngster has height on his side and at 6’2” his aerial ability is greater. Agbonlahor came into the Villa set-up with a similar build but has worked extremely hard on his strength and power. If Delfouneso wants to impose himself on the Premier League he may need to go down the same route with powerful strikers such as Didier Drogba and Carlos Tevez proving more and more effective.
The 19-year-old has 14 appearances to his name in the league but is yet to start in the competition. With Villa’s striking options wearing thin it may well be time to let Delfouneso shine. Nathan scored his first league goal after coming on to win the game away at Portsmouth last term. The Fonz has played more than a half of football in the league just once in last seasons 1-1 draw with Sunderland. Delfouneso first came into public knowledge 2 years ago in a stint in the UEFA Cup. The striker played on 4 occasions for Villa netting twice including an impressive performance in Hamburg. During his spell in the team he never looked overawed and added to his tally with an FA Cup goal against Doncaster. Having played just 299 minutes over 14 league games his solitary goal should not be underestimated. His record in the UEFA Cup at a goal every 129 minutes and even better in the FA Cup, striking every 117 minutes, highlight his quality and potential. Nathan also came off the bench against Blackburn this season in Houllier’s first game in charge claiming an assist to cap an impressive display.
With Houllier clearly unphased by playing the young talent available to him in the likes of Albrighton, Clark and Bannan, surely Delfouneso deserves a start to show what he is capable of. Villa fans have been eagerly anticipating his breakthrough season for years now and with the situation of the lack of goals at the club worsening this should and could well be that season. The 19-year-old has 10 goals at England Under-19 level as well as scoring on his Under-21 debut in a 2-1 defeat to Greece earlier in the year. Delfouneso has started 4 times for Kevin MacDonald’s reserves this season, netting 4 in his last 3 games which will be giving Gerard Houllier something to think about ahead of Saturday’s game at Fulham.
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