No more excuses, no more slow starts, says Gabriel Agbonlahor as Aston Villa join the battle to escape the relegation zone. The Villa striker dismissed as a factor in Villa’s alarming slump the relative youth of Paul Lambert’s side and implored his team-mates to start games with the same fire and brimstone which they eventually brought to the home defeat to Newcastle.
Villa head to Everton at the weekend having slipped into the drop zone on goal difference. Tuesday night’s barnburner demonstrated what might be possible in a match that showed both the worst and best of their character. “We have to address it. I think we need to come out flying in the first half and then try to keep it going in the second half. You saw with the fans at the end of the game that they were pleased with the second-half performance but we’ve got to start putting two halves together and that will get us what we need,” Agbonlahor said.
Newcastle paraded all five of their January signings, demonstrating the value of a £17m investment. Lambert has by the close of business Thursday to freshen a squad notionally enriched to the tune of £21m last summer. Despite taking just two points from the last seven games, he insists the group is good enough to survive either way, a view supported by Agbonlahor, who, as a second half substitute against Newcastle, was a factor in the regeneration.
Agbonlahor wants to see more of that courage and belief at Goodison Park. “The experience is there in the side. They are not 18, 19-year-old kids they all over 20 so it’s hard to use that as an excuse. I don’t know what it is. Whatever it is we have to try to keep fighting and pick up the results. Everyone knows. No-one wants to get relegated and we are all fighting for each other. They know what is needed.”
The imminent return of Richard Dunne to bolster the backline is a boost welcomed by Agbonlahor. “He’s a determined player and has done well in training. It’s the manager’s choice whether he throws him in against Everton but if he’s ready to play he should definitely play. Richard will keen to play against his former club I am sure. The gaffer and chairman have faith in the squad and the players. If you look at the bench the players to come on, we have a good squad. I think once we get Richard Dunne back to add to that squad we will be in a better position.”