It may surprise some to know that this is his fifth season at Villa. It’s taken time for Fabian Delph to adapt to the rigours and demands of the Premier League.
It’s definitely not always been plain sailing. He wasn’t allowed to leave Leeds until the right amount came along; we all know what Ken Bates is like.
As well as a drink driving charge, only 26 league appearances in his first three years at Villa and a loan spell back to his first club have all combined to make Delph’s career so far frustrating, to say the least. Or so it seemed.
Now at 25, Delph is in the form of his life; the main ingredient in Tim Sherwood’s intoxicating magic potion that has saved Villa from their impotent days under Paul Lambert, one where during his 115 games in charge, their average goal ratio was 1.09. And that includes cup games.
Even before the arrival of Sherwood, Delph was perhaps the one ray of light during the dark days of Paul Lambert. He earned an England call-up and has been ever-present since then, highlighting his unquestionable drive and determination to play his way to the top even in one of the worst sides of the Premier League at that time.
His last performance encapsulated his form this season and it couldn’t have been on a better stage. The Villains’ glorious 2-1 win against Liverpool on Sunday saw Delph put in a man of the match performance, after his Sterling effort that even saw him outshine Raheem.
He supplied the perfect pass to Christian Benteke, who slotted coolly for Villa’s equaliser before Delph made it 2-1 himself after turning Dejan Lovren inside out and sliding the ball under the on-rushing Simon Mignolet.
It lead to Garth Crooks naming him in his BBC Sport Team of the Week: “It looks like Villa boss Tim Sherwood has inherited a leader while England boss Roy Hodgson has someone to replace Frank Lampard in his midfield.”
Some praise indeed to be likened to one of England’s best goalscoring midfielders, but Delph has always had goals in his locker. Even at Leeds he scored his first as only a 19-year-old. He had the reputation around Elland Road as a player who couldn’t score tap-ins, he was one of those players that would only score goals that had a degree of quality about them.
As a Leeds fan myself, I remember his last permanent season with us. He scored six goals and even his first just enveloped his confidence and shooting ability from outside the box. After receiving a pass from Neil Kilkenny, Delph pushes the ball out of his feet and with 25 yards between himself and the goal, he fires a shot onto the post and in.
The next game he scored another two 25-yarders against Walsall, another against Hartlepool, a 40 yarder against Stockport (the keeper was nowhere) and then the goal of the season against Brighton. No wonder Villa paid £6 million, despite being a League One player.
The kid has always had the talent and the drive. But in his first season at Villa he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. A sentence that no footballer wants to associate themselves with. It put him out for eight months.
He returned for a few games after his injury in the latter stages of the 2010/11 season but failed to make an impact before transferring to Leeds in the second half of the 2011/12 season, but he picked up an ankle injury in February and was out for the rest of the season. Pretty unlucky.
But now he’s been given what he was owed by karma, and it’s most definitely deserved for the former Football League player of the Year, Leeds player of the year and Aston Villa supporters’ player of the year.
There is no reason why Delph can’t continue to play this way and be a permanent name on Hodgson’s teamsheet. He’s always had the talent, the drive and the willingness and who knows – perhaps an FA Cup medal?
£20 million target two years ago, Aston Villa should consider Abel Hernandez again
The Uruguayan is out of contract at Hull City this summer.
In the summer of 2016, Aston Villa were in talks to sign Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez from Hull City.
The £20 million deal looked to be good to go, until it came time to discuss salary, according to a report by the Sun.
It was claimed that Hernandez wanted £70,000-a-week to join Villa and then an increase to £100,000-a-week should Villa win promotion to the Premier League.
Those terms were considered unsatisfactory and Villa pulled the plug.
One year later, Hernandez was again linked with Villa.
Aston Villa chairman Tony Xia soon made it clear that wasn’t happening either. He was quoted by Birmingham Live as stating:
“Never will happen after last summer. Good for us.”
But what about this summer? Should Villa swoop for Hernandez once again?
There are many reasons why the Uruguayan would now be a more logical signing.
Hernandez is out of contract at Hull this summer.
The 27-year-old is therefore available on a free transfer, a massive bargain considering Villa were prepared to pay £20 million just two seasons ago.
Hernandez would also not be able to command such a wage on this occasion.
In 2016 the striker was coming off the back of scoring 22 goals in 45 games for the club and winning promotion to the Premier League.
Since then he has not been as prolific and also battled injury trouble. £70,000-a-week is simply not a possibility.
His best season with Hull actually came under the management of Steve Bruce, which might also help Villa in convincing Hernandez to Villa Park at a lower cost.
This season Hernandez managed just three games before suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. In those three games, he scored three goals.
If Villa fail to earn promotion this season then there are not many better goalscorers available at this level – never mind on a free transfer.
Since returning to action Hernandez has played three times, scoring three goals – giving him a 100 per cent record of six goals in six games for Hull City this time.
If Villa can come to an understanding over wages, Hernandez would be the perfect summer signing.
Jonathan Kodjia could become an Aston Villa hero
The Ivorian is set to return to first-team action after the international break.
Aston Villa’s automatic promotion hopes have come off the rails in recent weeks. For a while, it seemed Villa were going to upset either Wolves or Cardiff and break into the top two in the Championship. After a run of just one loss and one draw in 12 games, which ended in a 4-1 thrashing of Wolves, it was easy to see why.
Unfortunately, those hopes have come crashing down to earth. Villa have suffered two shock defeats in their last two outings. Firstly there was the 3-1 home reverse to QPR. Last weekend it was the turn of Bolton Wanderers, with Villa losing 1-0 at the Macron Stadium.
The international break could therefore not come at a better time for Aston Villa, who will hope to see some of their regulars return to action after injury.
One such player could be Jonathan Kodjia. The Ivory Coast striker has not played since the 0-0 draw with Birmingham City in October. The 28-year-old is suffering from another ankle injury and has been sorely missed up front.
But it appears he is nearing a return.
Kodjia featured for 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly against Peterborough United at Bodymoor Heath.
His return to action would be a huge boost for Villa. Whilst Kodjia can be a frustrating figure at times, he is also a top striking option.
Last season Kodjia scored 19 goals in the Championship and his firepower at this level has been sorely missed. With Scott Hogan out of form Lewis Grabban has been handed the burden of finding the net, Kodjia will hope to ease that responsibility.
If he can return to action at Villa Park and score the goals that send them back to the Premier League he will go down in Aston Villa folklore as a hero.
For a man with Kodjia’s character, that is an opportunity he will try to not let pass.
Is Oscar Borg’s Aston Villa career at an end?
The young left-back is out of contract at Aston Villa this summer.
Back in March 2016, Aston Villa snapped up promising left-back Oscar Borg from West Ham United.
According to the Daily Mail, the defender had trials with Manchester United and was highly thought of at West Ham, but he made the move to Villa and was soon making an impact in the reserves.
Recently Aston Villa found themselves short of left-back options.
Neil Taylor was out of action and Alan Hutton was also missing. With Axel Tuanzebe struggling, Villa found themselves short in the position.
But instead of calling on Borg, Steve Bruce called up James Bree, playing out of position at left-back.
It seems Borg may not have been available for Bruce, even if the 20-year-old was set for a first league call-up.
He has not featured for Villa’s under-23s since the 6-1 win v Wolves last month, with Mitchell Clark featuring at left-back instead.
Borg is undoubtedly a top talent at Aston Villa but injuries have been a major problem for him since arriving at Bodymoor Heath.
He spent most of last season on the sidelines and this year needed to be a breakout campaign for the talented full-back.
Borg has played 13 times for Villa’s under-23s this term, as they hunt for success in the Premier League 2, where they are currently second in their section behind Blackburn Rovers.
But, despite being Villa’s only other natural left-footed left-back, bar Taylor, the 20-year-old has made little impact in the first-team.
Borg only signed a two-and-half-year deal when arriving at Villa in 2016 and that contract expires in the summer.
Considering his lack of impact and history of injury problems it will not be a surprise if Borg does not remain a Villain beyond the end of the season.
If he does move on, hopefully, he can remain fit and push toward a professional career elsewhere.
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