New goals for Gabriel Agbonlahor as Aston Villa prepare for Chelsea visit

Gabby Agbonlahor has spent his career tearing at Premier League defences to become the great survivor of Villa Park.

West Ham United's James Collins (left) and Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor (right)
Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor (right)

Now he is urging his team to do the same.

Agbonlahor is convinced Villa are a different proposition when they keep the courage of their convictions and go head-to-head with opponents on the front foot.

That state of mind will be put to the test tomorrow with the team Agbonlahor believes will win the Premier League facing Paul Lambert’s side at Villa Park in the evening kick-off slot.

It’s a fixture which famously spelled doom for Jose Mourinho back in 2007 when a 2-0 win for Martin O’Neill’s men provided the breaking point in the Chelsea manager’s relationship with owner Roman Abramovich.

Agbonlahor has happy memories of that game as he scored the second goal two minutes from time but he isn’t kidding himself it bears any influence on tomorrow’s daunting challenge.

Villa, however, at least take on the Mourinho’s new Chelsea with a spring in their step after the 4-1 hiding of Norwich in which a 20-minute goal blitz showed just how destructive Lambert’s team can be.

And that, says the long-serving striker, offers a message for the remainder of the campaign.

“We’re a better side when we’re high-pressing,” he said. “If we sit off teams we get picked off but we need to keep that pressing going. We’re not going throw everyone forward, we always keep that defensive mind there sitting. We’re not going to get carried away because it’s one result after a few disappointing ones.

“Can teams handle that? It’s hard to say because a lot of teams do exactly what we do.

“But we just have to play with confidence and as a squad we have to realise the potential we have got. The young players are starting to show and there’s great talent in the squad.”

The years are beginning to mount up for a player still only 27 but who last season became the club’s top Premier League goalscorer, a one-club man popular with the fans because of his devotion the cause.

He made his debut eight years ago this month and his role in that famous downfall of Chelsea back in 2007 is also stored away in the memory banks.

“I remember my debut like it was yesterday,” he says. “There were a couple of illnesses and injuries so I got the chance.

“The game wasn’t very nice to play in, we got battered by Everton, but if I hadn’t scored on that day I could be in a different place now.

“When you are that age and score on your debut people start talking about you. If I didn’t score the strikers would have come back and it could have been a different story.

“I think I took the positives from that game and then getting a few more chances under David O’Leary and also when Martin came in.

“It was a really happy day for me and it seems like yesterday and not eight years ago. “I never imagined I would be where I am today. No chance.

“Then I was thinking ‘I want to play for Aston Villa’ and taking it game by game. Here I am now eight years ago it’s crazy.

“I’m proud and credit to the managers I’ve had along the way who have given me a chance to keep playing.”

Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Bacuna, Baker, Vlaar, Bennett; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor. Subs: Clark, Albrighton, Sylla, Holt, Tonev, Robinson, Steer (gk).

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpiliceuta; Matic, Lampard; Oscar, Hazard, Willian; Eto’o. Subs: Kalas, Luis, Mikel, Salah, Demba Ba, Ramires, Schwarzer (gk).

Danger man: Hazard by name and a hazard by nature. If Christian Benteke will be the main threat to Chelsea tomorrow then his fellow Belgium international heads the galaxy of problems the leaders will throw at the home side.