Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Jake Evans (@jakeevans_11)
…that is the question. A very corny headline aside, that will be the question in Steve Bruce’s mind as he meticulously plans and prepares the team for the Second City derby on Sunday (KO 12pm), which you can watch either in the squalor of St Andrews, or the comfort of Sky Sports.
Gabby Agbonlahor is a player who divides opinion amongst the Villa faithful more than any other Villan in history. Having scored one goal this season (on the opening day) after a promising pre-season campaign, Agbonlahor will be hoping that he can make his injury comeback against the Blues on Sunday. The only question is… will Bruce let him? It’s an interesting question, certainly. Agbonlahor was brilliant against Birmingham at Villa Park back in April, and scored the winner that day with a thumping finish. He also has a superb record against the Blues – almost always scoring, and absolutely always putting in a great shift and working hard to get the win… and claim the bragging rights.
But breaking into this Villa team after two months out will be no easy feat. Having risen up to fifth in the league in Gabby’s absence – entering the play-off places for the first time since we were relegated in 2016 – the manager will no doubt be keen to stick with one of his two preferred XI’s, both of which are listed below.
XI #1: 4-4-2
Johnstone, Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton, Snodgrass, Whelan, Hourihane, Adomah, Kodjia, Davis
XI #2: 4-2-3-1
Johnstone, Elmohamady, Chester, Terry, Hutton, Whelan, Hourihane, Snodgrass, Onomah, Adomah, Kodjia
First of all, let’s take a look at where Agbonlahor would fit in. As a Striker-come-Winger, it is likely that one of the players out of Kodjia, Davis, Snodgrass or Adomah would have to make way… and that’s where we hit a rather large snag. All of those players are as close to “un-droppable” as you can be when playing for Aston Villa in 2017.
This leads us to the other option… a super-sub role, just like he occupied in April, could well win us the match on Sunday. Despite being 30 years old, our #11 still possesses frightening pace, and he could be vital to hurting Birmingham City towards the end of the match.
With Jonathan Kodjia still not at 100%, it is foreseeable that Gabby could come on with 15 minutes left and run at the Birmingham centre-backs to try and either grab a late goal to win the game, or offer a counter attacking option to preserve a lead.
In fact, Steve Bruce will probably have a plethora of roles that Villa’s record goalscorer could play to get the three points on Sunday… but of course, this is all assuming that the #11 can leave his injury demons behind him.
What do you think? Send a tweet to @claretandview with either #GabbyStart or #GabbySub.