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Friday 02 March 2012

McLeish backs Agbonlahor to shine

Aston Villa boss believes striker can step in to replace injured Darren Bent

Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored five goals in 22 Premier League appearances this season

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish says striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has all the qualities needed to fill the void left by Darren Bent's injury.

Bent could be out for up to three months after rupturing ankle ligaments in the 0-0 draw with Wigan last weekend.

And with fellow forward Robbie Keane now back with Los Angeles Galaxy in the United States after a short loan spell, Agbonlahor will have to shoulder a great deal of the goalscoring responsibilities.

"He has risen to that expectation level and I believe that he can take it to another level"
- Alex McLeish

"I'm sure he's very keen to get in among the goals in more of a central role now," McLeish told the club's official website.

"I believe he can excel up top. I really do believe he can and he can improve in certain moments during games also.

"He's maybe not the same type of player as Benty but he's got the speed and the change of direction to score goals at the near post, score goals at the far post and we've seen already some really great goals for the club."

Agbonlahor's last Barclays Premier League goal came in the 3-2 victory over Norwich in November but McLeish insists the 25-year-old can soon get back on the scoresheet.

"He started the season really well, he maintained that and in the Norwich game - the last home victory - he was outstanding," added McLeish.

"Before that game I said to him: 'Look they're expecting you to do something every week now'. And he duly delivered that day.

"He scored a goal and made another couple for Benty and he must have made about another five or six chances that we never took on the day.

"He has risen to that expectation level and I believe that he can take it to another level."

Villa's next match is against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday.

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Key Points

  • Aston Villa boss backs Gabby Agbonlahor to fill Darren Bent's shoes
  • Alex McLeish says striker can excel in central role
  • Bent could be out for the rest of the season after rupturing ankle ligaments