Villa’s final wage Achilles heel?
When Charles N’Zogbia signed for Aston Villa, he was seen as Alex McLeish’s best piece of business of the summer. With the club selling Stewart Downing to Liverpool for £20 million, they were getting a potential like-for-like replacement for half the price. N’Zogbia had been McLeish’s target the previous year when he was the boss of Birmingham City, only a disagreement over personal terms scuppered the deal from going through. Like most of N’Zogbia’s career though, he has flattered to deceive.
At Newcastle, when interviewed, N’Zogbia claimed his destiny was to play for a top four Premier League team. Being French, his eye was always on linking up with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. In reality though, he left Tyneside to join Wigan.
He’s one of those French players that the term ‘Le Sulk’ is very adapt. It didn’t take long for his attitude to conflict with McLeish. On the pitch, they could be seen arguing while the game was in full flow. Off the pitch, N’Zogbia famously took to Twitter.
It was fresh slate time for N’Zogbia when Paul Lambert came to Villa Park, but apart from a few flashes of his ability and the odd goal from the winger, Lambert soon lost patience. He was on manager’s list for shipping out last summer and it was destination ‘Bomb Squad’, if he failed to find a club. French league football looked likely until his mysterious Miami holiday jogging accident ruled him out for the long-term. Conspiracy theories suggested N’Zogbia wasn’t even injured, but it doesn’t really matter, as the question is will he play in the claret and blue again?
Lambert indicated this week there was nothing in the demotion of N’Zogbia’s shirt number. The fact he went from number 10 to number 36 to unlisted, suggests there is. In fact, it tells you all you need to know about the situation. A valued player who’s already been at the club for a couple of years, keeps his shirt number even if he’s out injured for the rest of the season. Anything else would be regarded as an insult.
The questions about N’Zogbia’s return in the recent press conference were not specific to him featuring in the first team, but just about his fitness in general. The headlines though have been spun to suggest the player has been given a pardon by Lambert and still has a future.
“The lad’s hurt his Achilles and we’ve got to get him back fit,” said Lambert. Yes, he certainly needs to be fit to sell him, considering he cost the best part of £10 million and is on substantial wages.
Considering N’Zogbia is on wages that only Benteke of Lambert’s signings can match, it wouldn’t be motivational to the rest of the team to have him around, unless he was putting in regular match-winning performances.
The value of the ‘N’Zogbia is returning’ headlines is that it will appease a certain percent of fans into feeling better about not getting an attacking midfielder in. Remember last season, when we all felt the same way about Richard Dunne? The team was screaming out for a centre-back in the January window, but when the window shut and none had arrived, it wasn’t too bad, because Dunne was returning from injury. It got to the stage where Dunne reportedly was returning every week! Dunne never played in a Villa shirt again, but magically was fit enough to play for Ireland in June.
With N’Zogbia’s contract still running to the summer of 2016, in theory, it would be good to have N’Zogbia in the Villa squad, if his attitude was sound. He’s a player that can make things happen when on song, and such ability is especially needed in home games. But like Stephen Ireland, there’s a distinct feeling he’s had enough chances already to prove himself.
In short, considering Lambert’s thoughts on N’Zogbia in the summer, I’d be genuinely surprised to see N’Zogbia play for Villa ever again. UTV