When Aston Villa sold Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, a vast creative dent quickly appeared in the team.
Under Martin O’Neill both wingers provided a major facet to Villa’s rapid counter attacking style of football. With Marc Albrighton emerging through Villa’s youth ranks, to fill the void created on the right, Wigan’s Charles N’zogbia was seen as the man to make the left hand side of Villa Park his own.
On 29th July 2011 Villa beat Liverpool,Newcastle and Sunderland to the signature of the French attacker. Along with a £9.5m price tag he arrived with a reputation as an incredibly talented footballer. After working with N’Zogbia at Newcastle Sir Bobby Robson spoke highly, describing the player as, “one of the most naturally gifted players at that age I’d ever seen.’ This, remember, was a manager that had also managed Brazilian Ronaldo whilst at PSV.
After an up and down spell at Newcastle it was Wigan Athletic that saw the realisation of his undoubted potential. He was namedWigan's Players' Player of the Year and Supporters' Player of the Season for 2009–10. The following season he was Wigan’s top scorer with 10 goals, including 5 goals in the last 6 games which helped ensure the club’s Premiership safety.
The omens looked good for Villa and much was expected of him after being handed the number 10 shirt. But the tricky winger endured an uninspiring season under the restrictive style of football played by Alex McLeish. After returning only two goals during the whole Premier League campaign he ultimately fell out of favour with McLeish, as Villa struggled to avoid relegation.
With the appointment of Paul Lambert many Villa fans hoped a change in football philosophy would bring out the best in N’Zogbia. So far, despite being given numerous opportunities to thrive, that hasn’t been the case. This term he has only managed one goal in the 4-2 triumph over Manchester City in the ‘Capital One’ Cup, but more disappointing than his goal tally for Villa fans is his equally poor assist record.
It’s very rare that the Villa faithful actually get to witness N’Zogbia cross a ball into the box. A more common sight is to see the winger running head down straight into the clutches of an opposition defender. It is reminiscent of the dribbling style that also frustrated Villa fans when Milan Baros wore the claret and blue.
In short he has been awful for Aston Villa and fans seem to be running out of patience with a player not fulfilling his potential.
image: © michaelkjaer