England have been missing a rampaging forward ever since Alan Shearer retired from national duty in 2000. Gabriel Agbonlahor has the physique, the skill and the attitude to finally replace Shearer at the center of England’s attack.
A potted history of England’s strikers since 2000:
- Michael Owen has continued to shine whenever he’s pulled on the England shirt, but his injuries have meant that it’s been impossible to depend on his presence.
- Wayne Rooney continues to promise a lot but doesn’t deliver often enough for the Three Lions (1 goal in 3 games, on average). He is also apt to vacate the central area even when playing as a lone striker.
- Peter Crouch rarely disappoints when given a chance, but he finds himself under-utilized by manager after manager.
- A handful of ultimately unsuccessful experiments with the likes of Darius Vassell and Jermaine Defoe.
Villa’s Agbonlahor has all the raw materials to pick up where Shearer left off. Defenders hate physically dominating strikers and direct running, areas in which Agbonlahor excels. He is proficient with both feet, scores an equal number of tap-ins and longer shots, and is also a great header of the ball.
A look at the strikers included in the current England squad has me scratching my head at his exclusion.
- Rooney is there of course (and Owen isn’t, of course).
- Jermaine Defoe – he of 5 goals in 28 England appearances – is likely to start.
- Emile Heskey, who will be 32 by the time the next World Cup rolls around. Without Owen, he is Yang with no Ying.
- Theo Walcott, who has fewer Premiership goals than Defoe has international goals.
Agbonlahor’s versatility is possibly his undoing. In John Carew, Villa have a classic center forward who would struggle to play anywhere else. Ashley Young and Agbonlahor are asked to fill-in on the flanks. Agbonlahor, particularly, looks like he would deliver more goals if he were allowed to play more centrally.
As it is, he has scored 23 times in 76 Premier League appearances since the start of the 06-07 season, a period in which he’s only missed one league game. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Michael Owen.